With hundreds if not thousands turning out to Auburn's Market Street Park area for its annual Memorial Day festivities, the city's Downtown Business Improvement District saw an opportunity.
"I don't know another time there are so many people downtown," BID Assistant Director Jesse Kline said Wednesday. "In my mind, this was a huge opportunity to introduce something new to the audience there, and also introduce a new area to stage events downtown."
That something new is a food truck rodeo and craft beer garden, and that new area is the stretch of Loop Road between Genesee and North streets, along the Owasco River.
The new event joins Auburn's traditional Memorial Day schedule: A parade of more than 500 marchers, floats, classic cars and area fire trucks down Genesee Street at 11 a.m., a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park at noon and the Auburn Kiwanis Club's 29th annual Duck Derby at 1 p.m. at the North Street bridge over the Owasco River and the surrounding Market Street Park area.
Kline said the food truck rodeo and craft beer garden complement what the Kiwanis club and the nearby Knights of Columbus have done with the annual rubber duck race and its after-party.
The new event, a partnership between the BID and the United Way of Cayuga County, begins at 11 a.m. on the other side of the Owasco River. Available will be hot food by Tonzi's Catering Co. (Auburn), The Chicken Bandit (Syracuse) and Silo Food Truck (Ovid), as well as ice cream and other desserts by Cayuga Lake Creamery (Interlaken).
At the beer garden, meanwhile, will be local craft beer by Aurora Ale & Lager (Ruckus IPA and Mango Goseface Killah gose) and The Good Shepherds Brewing Co. (New England IPA and Vienna Lager), on whose doorstep the event will take place. National craft offerings from Firestone Walker, Bell's, Two Roads, Ithaca, Ballast Point and Sierra Nevada will also be served by The Copper Pig BBQ & Taproom.
Kline said each beverage server is required to have its own color cup, so in the spirit of Memorial Day, the three businesses will use red, white and blue ones.
Another new part of the post-derby party will be a performance by the Lock 52 Jazz Band under the Market Street Park band shell. Also organized by United Way of Cayuga County, the concert will follow DJ music by Goodtime Charlie's Mobile Entertainment. The park will also be the site of balloon sculptures and more by The Twin Magicians, crafts by the Girl Scouts and the Auburn High School Z Club, and the opportunity for children to create their own American flags. Winners of the derby, which has a $3,000 grand prize, will be announced there immediately afterward.
Kline said the traditional event's new additions have an alternative motive, too: Testing that area of Loop Road as a place for future outdoor programming.
Closing the scenic road has been floated by the city as a precursor to its riverside regional market project. And with the opening of ABC Cayuga's Play Space, Lyons National Bank and Aflac in the concrete bank building that the road cups, as well as the development of the neighboring Nolan Block on the horizon, Kline said the area's value is rising.
"That is, in my mind, the next link we're focusing on strengthening for downtown," she said. "We really need more spaces that can be closed to traffic and not impede businesses."