If you’re a fan of 3rd in the Burg, you’ll soon be able to warm up on the west shore for Harrisburg’s big night.
Starting this month, New Cumberland will hold a food and arts-focused event in their downtown every second Thursday of the month, going through September.
The New Cumberland Food Truck and Restaurant Rally’s main attraction is a collection of food trucks in the parking lot of Baughman Church. Attendees then ripple through downtown to visit several surrounding restaurants and small businesses that feature their own special events.
Under the right weather conditions, the average food truck rally brings several hundred people to New Cumberland.
“Food trucks are a really big draw, very trendy,” said Carlee Seele, owner of the Moss Creek Art gallery. “The trucks that make a name for themselves get a really big following, especially with the younger crowd—Gen Xers and millennials.”
Plus, food trucks give people the chance to try new or unusual foods. With six to eight trucks at each rally, cuisines range from American fare and desserts to more exotic choices. Regular trucks include (but are certainly not limited to) Marsico’s Italian Food Cart, It’s All Greek to You, The Lucky Penny Burger Co., Mad Dash Grilled Cheese, FireBox Street Grill, Get Smoke’d BBQ and The Sweet Patch.
“Food trucks add variety and creativity to our downtown and help us get more feet on the street,” said Cindy Washburn, co-owner of Oxford Hall and a marketing committee member for the New Cumberland Business & Professional Group. “We don’t have a Cuban restaurant, but people will come downtown to try Cuban food out of the truck.”
Many shops stay open until 7 p.m. to offer visitors more reasons to drop in, such as free music, giveaways, happy hours, hors d’oeuvres and wine.
“Did you know that New Cumberland has an open container law?” Seele said. “Guests can treat New Cumberland like Mardi Gras, bringing your wine glass from place to place.”
Fortunately, a distillery is another popular stop on the self-guided walking tour.
The New Cumberland Business & Professional Group strives to position New Cumberland as a destination, to create an atmosphere that is “more artsy, eclectic and interesting,” said Washburn. In addition, artists will demonstrate how they create their wares, and there will be live music in the parking lot of Baughman Church.
The artsy event is enmeshed with a down-home spin, complete with picnic tables in the parking lot. It’s the kind of townie event where you bring your own lawn chair.
New Cumberland really is that kind of friendly place. According to event marketing Chair Gennifer Richie, the group timed the monthly event on second Thursdays so they wouldn’t detract from nearby towns that already hold their walkabouts on Fridays.
Their community’s bond and spirit of cooperation extends among local competitors.
“The food truck event plays right in with the efforts our community is working toward,” Richie said. “We’ve got businesses in town all working together, community members creating and doing more activities together. We’re promoting safe, healthy living activities, economic development and town revitalization.”
Washburn moved to New Cumberland from Carlisle 30 years ago to create her destination business, much in the same way she sees the food truck events as a destination.
“As small business owners, we’re always competing with the big guys,” she said. “We want people to discover our businesses. The food trucks were part of a strategic maneuver to bring attractive inventory downtown.”
In addition to presenting a compact, walkable downtown, New Cumberland is uniquely positioned due to its location and proximity to major highways, an airport and the train station, she said.
“This has done something to the dynamic of the diversity of the community,” Washburn said. “New Cumberland is accessible, like a cool truck stop on the way to bigger cities.”
At the same time, New Cumberland has head-turning historical buildings that are currently in the midst of being inventoried.
“The neighborhoods and homes here are beautiful, and they get snapped up quickly when they go on the market,” Washburn said. “It’s not unusual to talk to someone to find their families have been rooted here for 100 years or more.”
With the turnover of downtown business owners and some landmark business closures, Seele sees New Cumberland as an underdog of sorts.
“New Cumberland’s pent-up energy will hopefully get released, bringing some revitalization back into the town,” she said.
This will apply even more with the end of the quarantine.
“We want to bring the community back, revive the social part of New Cumberland, and bring back people hanging outside,” she said. “As people get more comfortable, we want to bring people back together again in a healthy way.”
For more information on the New Cumberland Food Truck and Restaurant Rally, visit NewCumberlandPA.org.