The First Townsville Eats Event

After the first Townsville Eats scheduled for March was postponed due to wet weather, last night saw the event kick off to huge crowds, long lines, and lots of happy smiles all round…or at least that’s what I saw!  Social Media this morning is showing me that not everyone had the same experience, but I’ll talk more about that in a moment.

Townsville Eats is a family friendly food event featuring a selection of food trucks and vendors, market stalls, late night shopping and live entertainment. 

Set to become a regular event on the local calendar, Townsville Eats is operated by the local City Council events team and in my opinion they are onto a good thing with this!

My family all headed into town at around 6.30pm – so by this stage the night was already in full swing having started at 5pm.  Approaching the CBD, I soon noticed the flow of traffic increased, but also that parking spots were filling up much further out from the city, and the footpaths were busy with people making their way into the city. This was a good sign and something I’ve not seen in a long time, if ever during my time of living here.

We managed to snag a park on nearby Walker Street, making the wander down to Flinders Street easy – always a good thing when you’re walking with 5 kids in tow!


We could see the crowds from a block away and I couldn’t help but smile!  Townsville had turned out by the hundreds to check out the new event.  The weather at this time of year certainly means events have a greater chance of being attended anyway, but last night was beyond any of my expectations!


The crowd was still heavy after 7pm and in fact didn’t really start to thin out until after 8.30pm!  The line ups for the various food trucks were lengthy but the food smelt and looked delicious.  A selection of seating options were set up in several locations along the closed off section of Flinders Street (the blocks either side of Bulletin Square – location of the Sunday morning markets).

We moved through the crowd and after eyeing off several food trucks, we opted for the shorter line at Flinders Street resident foodies, The Beet Bar.


After a delicious salad, we braved the crowded streets again to appreciate the great sounds coming from the main stage, partake in some window shopping, and to catch the end of The Greatest Showman at the outdoor cinema.


By this stage it was 9pm and definitely time to get five very tired kids home.

Like so many other local families, we admit to not venturing into the CBD often at all.

My partner now works in the city, but apart from the occasional Sunday markets or a rare Date Night to City Lane I mainly stay in my immediate suburban area, or bypass the CBD to head straight to The Strand.

With so many residents doing as we do, it’s just one of many reasons for the downfall in the CBD area, highlighted by the sheer number of empty store fronts and ‘For Lease’ signs.  Over the past few years there have been many attempts to revitalise the area and entice shoppers back to the city. Safe to say it hasn’t worked too well with stores either closing their doors for good, or opting for relocation to the outer suburbs.

I’m not going to say that one night-time event per month will make an immediate difference, but it’s definitely a positive step in the right direction!


So why are so many people still complaining?

After leaving Townsville Eats last night the only negative that I’d picked up was that there were quite a few stores with closed doors that were not taking advantage of the huge number of foot traffic – numbers that store owners would not have seen in quite a while (if ever!).

But hey, maybe they couldn’t afford to employ staff at after hours rates, maybe they are owner-operators who cannot open nights due to family reasons, or maybe they just didn’t realise what they’d be missing out on.  Who am I to judge right?

So while that was the only negative that I could see, it seems that there were in fact quite a few people who are more than willing to pick the event to pieces.  You know that old saying ‘You can’t please all of the people, all of the time’? Never is this more true when you are an events organiser.

There is always someone ready to tear you down

One minute they are crying there is never anything to do in Townsville, or that the City Council doesn’t give two hoots about bringing life back into the CBD.  Then when events like Townsville Eats are brought to life, these same people are quick to tear it down.

Just some of the comments I’m reading today:

  • the lines were too long
  • we got tired of waiting so went somewhere else
  • the food I wanted was sold out
  • Brisbane’s Eat Street is run way better than this was

A lot of the complaints, in my opinion, are from people who have either no experience running events or who cannot step back and see the big picture.

Last night’s event was the FIRST.  That means that organisers and vendors alike had no idea what to expect. How many seating areas do you put out when you have no idea how many people will show up?  How much space do you leave between food trucks – too far apart and the place could look sparse and empty, but how close is too close (remembering that a lot of these vendors will require access to power too so now we need to factor that into the mix!)

Planning an event without pre-sold confirmed ticket numbers is a logistical nightmare!

Have you ever tried to order food for a family function when half the family can’t confirm if they’re going to be there?

If you don’t provide enough food then you know Uncle Jerry and Cousin Karen are going to complain the entire night about how hungry they are. But buy too much food and you face throwing out a lot of wasted food, not to mention overspending to begin with.

This scenario is what anyone in the food industry faces on the daily.  If they are a regular operator then sure, they usually know what to expect. But when it comes to the world of Food Trucks, each event is different and unless you hold the power of fortune telling, then it can be a bit of a guessing game – especially for a debut event!

Events need time to grow, organisers need time to fine tune.

Comparing Townsville Eats to Brisbane’s Eat Street is not only unfair but also a bit ridiculous.

Eat Street has been running for quite a few years, has a permanent location, AND is operational EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND.  Could it be any further from what Townsville Eats is currently?

There is no doubt that as Townsville Eats progresses and the months go by, we’ll see changes across all aspects of the event as they trial ideas to find what works and what doesn’t.

​Events of this complex nature need time to grow and they need patience from the public.

Feedback is always great, but there’s a big difference between constructive feedback and outright whinging.

Went to Townsville Eats but didn’t eat from a Food Truck?

It doesn’t matter!  The fact is that you got in your car, drove into the CBD, and showed your support. Whether you ate from a food truck, walked up the block to the Herbert, or got into your car and drove somewhere else to eat, the important part is that you left the house!

All the people saying they couldn’t be bothered waiting in a food truck line so headed over to Gregory Street for a feed – GOOD!!  The economic benefits of events like Townsville Eats isn’t confined to two city blocks. The on flow effect spreads out and can have a positive effect on all local businesses.

This is that bigger picture I mentioned earlier!

So what can we, the public, do to make it better?

Show up!  I cannot stress that enough!  So many times I’ve seen events that have huge potential go by the wayside because we, the public, go once and then never go back. Before long the event folds and once again we are throwing our hands up in the air in disgust at how ‘there’s never anything good in Townsville’.

​Next month’s Townsville Eats needs to be just as big, if not bigger, than last night’s debut.

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