Feast on the Street brings community members together to celebrate food, sustainability

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Photos by Evie Carpenter, Alexis Macklin and Cydney McFarland

First Street was transformed from a vehicular route to a dining hall complete with food and drinks for hundreds of community members seated at a half mile-long table between Taylor and Moreland streets Saturday.

The citywide party lasted for seven hours with food catered by local restaurants and food trucks. The local theme was not to be lost on guests; there were performances from local musicians, craft stations held by local artists and recipe tastings conducted by local chefs.

The event promoted community bonding by bringing a wide range of people together to engage in a meal set in the arts district of downtown Phoenix. The event itself was free and open to the public, but food had to be purchased from the participating vendors.

There was some confusion regarding the food at the feast. Some community members were under the impression there was going to be free food at the table; however, this was not the case. There were free samples and tasting throughout the day, but meals to eat at the table were purchased by the feastgoers from vendors.

“I think that was something that we have to educate the public on more, that we’re not serving food but you purchase it and then sit down and share,” said Wendy Hultsman, a Parks and Recreation Management and Special Event Management professor at ASU and member of the executive committee for the event.

Approximately 20 food trucks were stationed on First Street between Roosevelt and Portland streets, including Short Leash Hot Dogs, Luncha Libre, Ají’s Mobile Foods, Emerson Fry Bread, Burgers Amore, Jamburritos and The Maine Lobster Lady. Lines for the food trucks were long early on in the event and only grew longer as time went on. Several food trucks sold out of menu items or their entire stock even before the official seating time at 6 p.m.

The food trucks were located at the end of the table closest to Margaret T. Hance Park, causing that area of the event to become congested while the rest of the table remained generally unoccupied, even after the official seating.

Feast on the Street opened with a salad toss where people helped toss a large salad parachute-style in a plastic tarp.

One of many sources of entertainment at the event was brought by the Arizona Storytellers Project, which held a series titled “Food Stories” where storytellers told narratives about food experiences.

There was also a “Mobile Gardens Parade” where people marched in costume or with gardens in wagons, bags, bikes and even hats, giving an entirely new meaning to the phrase “shade garden.” 

Sustainability was another important theme of the event. Greg Esser, board member of Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation and a driving force behind the event, said the goal was for the feast to be a waste-free event. Compost and recycle deposits were conveniently placed throughout the half mile with signs indicating where to place trash and leftovers. Feastgoers were also asked to bring their own reusable water bottles.

Colin Tetreault, senior policy advisor for sustainability to Mayor Greg Stanton, gave the sunset toast from the top of a cherry picker at the end of the table.

“Roosevelt Row CDC, along with all the partners and vendors here, has done a great job and made really strong efforts to be smart and sophisticated and use sustainability as something that adds value to all the patrons and all the guests here,” Tetreault said.

Bridging the Idea: From London to Phoenix

Video by Yihyun Jeong

The concept for Feast on the Street was started by British artist Clare Patey, who began the event by hosting the Feast on the Bridge on London’s Southwark Bridge six years ago. Feast on the Bridge celebrates community and demonstrates the benefits of eating local food. Since then, it has become a popular addition to the Thames Festival at each summer’s end.

Gordon Knox, director of the ASU Art Museum, met Patey in London two years ago at a conference on climate change. Patey soon traveled to Phoenix to visit the ASU Art Museum and partnered with Roosevelt Row to conduct the feast.

“Clare came and started to work with the idea of starting the feast here. She realized really it’s about being local to be able make something like this happen,” Knox said.

Esser explained that Patey is interested in climate change and promoting local food sources to reduce the carbon footprint caused by food production, distribution and preparation.

“Without being didactic, this is really exposing residents of downtown Phoenix to locally grown foods and bringing better awareness to the more than 70 restaurants that are all easy walking distance from First Street in downtown,” he said.

Over the last two years, Patey’s idea to bring a feast to Phoenix developed into a major community event.

“It’s really grown into a fantastic intersection that represents the university, community partners, foundations, local businesses, farmers, the Phoenix Public Market,” Esser said.

Many sponsors backed Feast on the Street, including ArtPlace, Local First Arizona, the Steele Foundation, ASU School of Art, ASU College of Public Programs and ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. Feast on the Street was also funded by the National Endowment for the Arts Grant that was given to Phoenix last year.

Food and Friendship

Shannon Scutari, director of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, attended Feast on the Street and said she was excited to see people discover First Street and downtown Phoenix.

“I see a lot of families, there’s a lot of kids. There’s people spontaneously dancing and singing, which I don’t usually experience in Phoenix. I usually have to go to other cities to see that,” she said.

Knox said that the feast addresses both sustainability and community building.

“[The feast] is empowering and engaging,” Knox said. “It cuts through a very interesting cross section — sort of a sociological cross section — of Phoenix.”

Knox said he believes the sustainable efforts will help in encouraging a cultural movement. He said he was very pleased by the outcome of the feast.

“I’m really grateful to the energy of the people of Phoenix,” he said.

Local musician Marc Oxborrow of the band The Haymarket Squares, which performed at the feast, said he feels people can bond over food.

“I like how food is something everyone can get into and agree on, but they’re also using it as a platform to put forth other related ideas,” Oxborrow said. “They’ve got groups who talk about sustainable agriculture and home gardening, so it’s bringing people together around something everyone loves, and using it as a form to spark interests in other things.”

Contact the reporter at alejandra.armstrong@asu.edu