In 2013, Mike Schmitz had an idea. As a way to utilize and showcase a venue he was in charge of at the time, he thought to invite the FM community to dinner… a casual event, served by some of the hottest (and only at that time) local food trucks! Little did he know that this food truck event was ahead of its time, and would eventually turn into a state- wide celebration.
While the initial event in 2013 faced challenges like rainy weather and the accidental shared date of the first ESPN Gameday being hosted in the valley, it still brought in about 800 foodies. With those unforeseen circumstances and the eight vendors who were in attendance that first year, Mike didn’t think much about reviving the event in 2014—but as he said, “Boy, did we hear about it when it didn’t happen again that next year.”
So, in 2015 the second food truck celebration was hosted, and it took off. So much so, that Mike hosted the same event that fall in Bismarck to see more success. From that fateful 2013 event to a wildly popular 2015 to today, the Fargo Food Truck Festival has ultimately resulted in annual events in Bismarck, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Watford City.
Mike Schmitz, the founder of Fargo Food Truck Festival & 701 Food Truck, has been involved with everything from conceptualization, execution, and expansion into different markets. According to Mike, Fargo hosted the very first Food Truck event held in not only North Dakota but South Dakota and Montana as well.
Historically, food trucks have some of the best dishes, but are often the hardest to track! In an effort to pull the whereabouts, top recommendations, and more, Mike founded the Facebook page 701 Food Truck Fans. The page is all about the food truck scene in the Dakotas and surrounding states, to “find out about new tastes, new trucks, specials, events, and vendors.” Vendors can share their next stop, and foodies can share their favorite finds! Head to /701foodtruckfans on Facebook to check it out!
Over the years, as the general food truck scene has changed, the festival has with it. There is more variety of food trucks and their offerings, along with higher quality. As with many other annual events, 2020 was a difficult event to manage—but innovation got the best of it.
In an attempt to restore something normal to the FM foodie scene, Mike told the vendors, “Let’s do a drivethru festival.” Lots of time was spent thinking about what exactly to do.
“All of these vendors had just lost every event of their summer, and we knew the public needed something to look forward to. In June, we hosted the first public event to happen really anywhere in the state since the shutdown. We thought of every aspect and successfully ran a threeday Drive-Thru Food Truck event. It was so successful that the Minnesota State Fair duplicated it later that summer. We then held different variations of our standard events throughout the fall,” Mike said, adding that later, the group even held a winter Drive-Thru Food Truck event.
“Lots of things have changed and come up since we started 10 years ago, but this group of vendors has been resilient and willing to adapt. I’d expect in the next 10 years, we’ll be ready to take on just about anything,” he said.
After years of adapting, innovating, and, of course, celebrating, Mike explained why this year’s event is extra special.
“It’s our 10th year and we’ll be in the second year of our new location—Red River Valley Fair—and we think we’ll have the most diverse collection of food options that we’ve ever had,” Mike said. “We’ll shoot for 18-20 vendors as we have for the past 5-6 years. There will be some returning trucks that have played critical roles in our history, but don’t always make it every year.”
This year’s festival will expand to community connections as well, as the lineup includes a nonprofit food truck that operates with a mission of community give-back and will feature a different celebrity chef each day. They’re also hosting a fundraising vendor whose pop-up spot will create an avenue for them to increase their mission accomplishments and visibility.
Another exciting addition this year is the announcement of the inaugural inductees of the North Dakota Food Truck Hall of Fame, along with a few other surprises!
The Food Truck Festival is celebrated statewide. Whether you’re traveling this summer, you want to send loved ones that way, or maybe you’re planning on following the festival, check out the other locations and dates for the event!
Fargo Food Truck Fest— August 11-13
Grand Forks Food Truck Fest— August 25-27
Bismarck Food Truck Fest— September 8-10
Dickinson Food Truck Rodeo— September 22-24
While there are more that will be announced on Facebook on the 701 Food Truck Fans page, check out the confirmed food trucks for the 2023 Fargo Food Truck Festival!
“This is Fargo-Moorhead’s most ‘flavor’ite event of the summer and has really launched the Food Truck scene in the region,” Mike said. “We’re grateful for all of your support [over] the past 10 years, and can’t wait to see everyone in August”
Mark your calendars for August 11-13 at the Red River Valley Fair, and come hungry!