Not long after the third or fourth H&8th Night Market was held in 2013 at the intersection of N. Hudson Avenue and NW Eighth Street, Brian Bergman, the event’s coordinator, received an interesting email.
The email was from the organizer of an event similar to what he was trying to cultivate with H&8th in the capital of foodie cities, New York City. The NYC organizers were interested to know how, in the course of a few months, H&8th had accomplished what they had been striving to accomplish for several years. Attendance at H&8th had doubled every night that year — the highest estimated attendance was about 10,000 people.
“The guys in New York wanted to know how we were kicking their ass,” Bergman said.
H&8th started as a simple concept and has been a huge success. The idea was to set up a corral of the best food trucks and live music the city had to offer and then block off car traffic and make an evening of it. What happened was beyond Bergman’s imagination. This year, it’s back. And thanks to the brains behind the operation, it’s going to be better than ever.
Bergman has learned a few things in the process and spent the off-season from October to February fine-tuning the plan to make this year even better than the last.
“Last season was really all about keeping up with the avalanche,” Bergman said. “It was a huge learning curve.”
Organizers have capped the number of food trucks that are clamoring to participate at 30. To date, 28 of those slots are booked for every night of the season. Most of the trucks that are going to be there are returning, and there are some new faces in the crowd.
“This is going to be a big season,” said Bergman. “We’ve got trucks from Stillwater, Lawton, Tulsa, all over. We’ve really reached out regionally, and we love that.”
According to Bergman, Stillwater has a booming food truck scene, almost bigger than what is found in OKC. The challenge, he said, is getting a truck that will travel from Stillwater once a month.
But when you’re craving food from a truck and it’s not the last Friday of the month, maybe it’s time for a jaunt up Interstate 35 to see what our friends in Stillwater have to offer.
To participate in H&8th, you don’t just have to have a truck; you need to have a certain type of truck.
“We really want to offer gourmet food trucks, literally the best of the best, regionally,” Bergman said.
In keeping with the spirit of the event, participants must be local businesses.
Bergman has received emails from national chains wanting to take part in the event. Fast-food chains have been hip to the mobile-food business for a while, knowing that it isn’t just a passing fad and wanting to get in on the action. While it’s flattering that the event has garnered that kind of attention, Bergman said that is not really what the event is all about.
When coming up with the idea behind the concept, he said that he was inspired by Sunday afternoons in Germany, where he remembers noise ordinances and quiet afternoons in the center of town with the community enjoying each other’s company at a slower pace.
“I’m kind of enamored of the idea of the city center,” Bergman said.
He also was inspired by the act of walking rather than driving, which is why the streets around H&8th are blocked to vehicular traffic.
“Walking allows you to see the things you miss when you drive past,” he said.
There are wonderful things going on in this city, and H&8th provides a snapshot of that.
“When you get down to it, this event is about community. It’s about discovery and interaction. And if we do those two things really well, we are a success,” he said.