As a young reporter, I was once taken down a notch by a volunteer firefighter in a town that I covered.
I wanted to write what I considered to be a harmless piece about a fire department fundraiser. But, evidently, this firefighter had felt wronged before by another reporter who, he believed, had messed up a story. And he was still angry about it.
“What do you know about what’s happening here?” he snipped to me. “I’ve never seen you before.”
He was correct. I really didn’t know anything about the people I supposedly covered—who they were, what they did, what made them tick. As we say in the biz, I “parachuted in,” which meant that any reporting I did would be superficial, at best. There was no way I could understand the nuances of who these people were and why they did what they did.
I was reminded of this long-ago episode because of an article published yesterday by PennLive. This article linked declining food truck sales during 3rd in the Burg to a shooting up the block during the April event.
As I read the story, I thought to myself, “No, that’s not right.” I felt that much of the real story, the deeper meaning, the part you learn by living in a community, participating in it, was missing.
I used to manage 3rd in the Burg and, today, TheBurg continues to organize the event. So, we know very well what’s happening on the third Friday of the month in Harrisburg. And the April shooting, which stemmed from a domestic dispute in a house nearby, while tragic, is not primarily responsible for the decline in the popularity of the “Food Truck Feast” portion of 3rd in the Burg.
Last month, during the June event, I was at the food truck area at N. 3rd and Harris streets and thought the crowd size was respectable, despite the shooting two months before. That said—the long lines of a few years ago were gone, like the day back in 2014 when it took me nearly an hour to get a taco.
The people, though, had not really disappeared. I knew that they had just moved a few blocks south to the Broad Street Market.
A year ago, the Broad Street Market, rich with amazing food options, began participating in 3rd in the Burg, and that’s where all the energy–and all the hungry people–have gone. In fact, several market vendors have reported their greatest single-day sales ever during 3rd in the Burg days.
“We’ve seen a steady and even dramatic increase from month to month,” market Manager Beth Taylor told me today. “We get families, young children, single people. It’s been fabulous.”
In fact, once the market opened, attendance at the food trucks began to tail off almost immediately, and the organizers of the Food Truck Feast, citing decreased business, even cancelled it once or twice last year, months before the shooting.
For her part, Taylor has made the market a centerpiece of 3rd in the Burg. Besides all the food options, there’s live music, indoor and outdoor seating, and a fun, friendly community vibe. In the courtyard, there have been craft beer samples, an ice cream stand, coffee drinks, baked goods and homemade fudge samples. The event this month will even include a kid’s bounce house.
The market is also perfectly located in the middle of the action, as opposed to the more out-of-the-way HACC parking lot, where the food trucks set up. It has shelter and bathrooms and is open year-round.
In 2013, when the Food Truck Feast arrived, it was a great addition to 3rd in the Burg. Over the years, we’ve loved working with the trucks and wish them the best at their new location in Mechanicsburg.
However, here in Harrisburg, the action has shifted a few blocks away, to a more natural community space and a more natural gathering point, which also has terrific amenities for attendees. Simply put—people enjoy hanging out at the Broad Street Market.
“I love that the market participates in 3rd in the Burg,” Taylor said. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the month. It should be a good one next week.”