Chowing down in downtownMay 13, 2021
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — The Downtown Chowdown hadn’t even officially started yet and lines at each food truck were already filled.
Eleven food trucks spread around the Courthouse Square in Jasper provided a variety of eats Wednesday evening, from barbeque to tacos to crepes and shaved ice. Families and friends gathered to eat, listen to live music, play some giant Jenga and other activities, and shop at the downtown stores.
This is the second year of the Downtown Chowdown. Although the festival was able to continue through the pandemic last year, it didn’t quite feel the same as it would’ve under normal circumstances, said Lisa Bower, Jasper’s mayoral administrative assistant who helped put on the event.
This year’s monthly Chowdown is bound to feel different, though. With an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations and a subsequent decrease in cases, Bower said she expects even more visitors this year.
“This is what we wanted it to look like last year,” she said.
Ireland resident Carly McCain and her three sons, Carter, Caleb and Crosby, all sat at a picnic table as the event started. The three boys enjoyed their multicolored cups of shaved ice while their mom took pictures of them on her phone.
Carly said she and her family had never experienced a large, public event like this in Jasper before the Chowdown, as they had just moved to town in August 2020.
“Everything’s been shut down, so this is kind of our first,” she said. “We’re looking forward to more things like this … and we’re really looking forward to Strassenfest.”
Around 4 p.m., when the event began, at least half a dozen families with children headed straight for the Kona Ice truck. Carly said it’s her boys’ favorite.
Another popular vendor was the Wood Capital Pizza truck, owned by Jasper couple Kyle and Jamie Jahn. Last month, when the two were still experimenting with cooking for crowds, Kyle said he was nervous about whether people would want to wait an extra 15 or 20 minutes for wood-fired pizza when other options would be faster.
The line at the Chowdown, the food truck’s first big event, was one of the most popular.
Meanwhile, local band Misty and Jason played live music for the guests. They covered songs from every genre and decade, from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” to the Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” to Midland’s “Drinkin’ Problem.”
In addition to the food trucks, music and activities, the shops on the Square stay open late for the Chowdown.
“The reason we wanted to do this is to help local merchants, so you can eat and shop,” Bower said.
Future Chowdown dates will also feature a pop-up marketplace, a project through Heart of Jasper where local entrepreneurs can sell their products and services at the old Sternberg Furniture building on the Square. Darla Blazey, the city’s director of community development and planning, said that 60% of the vendor spots have already been filled.
The Downtown Chowdown will continue every second Wednesday of the month from 4 to 8 p.m.
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