Diverse food choices in Trail are about to be in a block radius once Silver City Days plugs in its 35 vendors today.
Favourites like the donair shack, mini donuts, and the lemonade trailer are rolling into town for opening day of the Festival Food Mall along Spokane Street, between Bay and Esplanade avenues.
“For awhile there the vendors were mainly just locals but then as groups aged, they were pulling out so we decided to open it up to outside people about 15 years ago,” said Trail Festival Society president Ian McLeod.
Preparation started Sunday night with barricading sections of downtown Trail to make way for the 51st annual celebration. The $38,000 financial backing from the City of Trail ensures the five-day event can get cooking, which wouldn’t be possible without the infrastructure put in place.
Eight 200 amp panels provide power to the vendors and if that’s not enough, the carnival has two large generators on hand should they need to throw a few cables over to the vending trailers to provide more amperage.
About 1,800 feet of hose has been dragged on site to deliver water to each food vendor and to service one wash station.
“Every single vendor has to have water and power and health forms and food safe worked out,” said McLeod. “Kootenay Boundary health board comes around and inspects all the trailers and the vendors to make sure everything it up to par.”
Vendors like Rossland’s Billy and Monique Blackburn of Rockingham Enterprises have it down to a science.
The husband and wife team are known to offer a healthy option out of their wrap trailer that has people lining up to taste Billy’s famous caesar salad dressing.
“We made it at the table for several years at Rockingham’s so people have the recipe but like any recipe everyone always adapts it to make it their own and that’s pretty much how I got it, too,” he said.
Billy started waiting tables for Mel Smeland (owner of the Crown Point) back when he owned Kootenay Cattle Company, when Roy Benedict, who owns Benedict’s Steakhouse & Tunnel Pub, was the chef of the time.
That’s when he first got a taste of the business, which led him to waiting tables with Benedict at a restaurant in Fernie, where they used to make the caesar salad right at the table.
It wasn’t long after that he found himself part owner of Rockingham’s in Rossland with then business partner Dave Cockeron. The restaurant, formerly located where Ferraro Foods is now, was known for its famous burger nights, margaritas and of course its caesar salad made fresh at the table.
Billy jokes that he stuck with the food industry to stave off starvation but anyone who’s sampled his creations can taste the passion he puts into his fare, which now rolls from festival to festival for up to five months of the year.
The husband and wife team took on the gypsy life six years ago when they purchased their first trailer (offering tasty wraps like caesar salad, thai salad and chicken ranch) and are excited to start their seventh season with a second trailer at its side under the banner of Billy Bob’s Big Bad Burgers.
“We were neglecting the carnivores,” says Billy, who will be manning the new hot food trailer that will tout sausage burger patties from Star Grocery wrapped in a City Bakery bun.
The burger menu features everything from the Classic topped with caramelized onion, a dill pickle and aged cheddar to the Finer Miner, garnished with back bacon, aged cheddar, caramelized onion and a fried pineapple ring to the ultimate Carnivore (two six ounce patties with back bacon, aged cheddar and caramelized onion). The menu also includes chilli cheese dogs and kids hot dogs.
The couple has been talking about introducing the comfort food for a couple years now as they said when the temperature dips, which it often does for Silver City Days, customers are after something warmer.
Silver City Days kickstarts their vender season, which leads them to various festivals across the province including Victoria’s Oak Bay Tea Party, Salmo’s Shambhala, Salmon Arm Roots and Blues and the Rock Creek Fall Fair.
“It’s more work than a full-time job,” Billy admits. “When you’re out there if you’re not selling, you’re setting up, tearing down or driving — there’s really no time off.”
But he wouldn’t have it any other way. The food city is a bit like a family for some traveling vendors, who run into each other elsewhere across the province and develop a friendship along the way.
“It’s pretty amazing the amount of people that you get to chat with and the stories you get to hear,” he said. “It’s a pile of work but you know we like to think that we work full-time jobs like everyone else but we cram it into a shorter period of time.”
The Festival Food Mall is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and ends with a shorter day Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.