Jake Hoot to help celebrate park opening Friday, Oct. 13.

Cookeville – Everyone knows shopping, socializing and taking in the town are some of the world’s favorite pastimes. Food trucks have surged in popularity to take advantage, and the trend of grabbing food on the go has become big business.

As reported by the Upper Cumberland Business Journal (UCBJ), former Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton is unveiling his Trackside Food Truck Park on Friday Oct. 13 (yep, Friday the 13th) at 172 W Broad St directly behind P Dilly’s cupcakes. The park will be the first of its kind in the area.

The most obvious advantage of opening a food truck park in October is timing, of course. Halloween draws families from their homes to scour the city for haunted goodies, and that is soon followed by Black Friday, the ultimate in shopping, socializing and taking in the town. 

And we all know what comes next. Tis’ the greatest shopping season of them all.

“We had a vision and had been working on the plans for Trackside for several months,” Shelton told the UCBJ. “We wanted to create a very aesthetically pleasing space. Trackside will echo the vibe of the Depot area and incorporate some cool reclaimed materials.”

Trackside will provide a space for the community to eat and socialize in a fun and casual environment that will accommodate several hundred people. Shelton says it will be a “foodie celebration” with a focus on local food and benefit to local businesses.

“I’ve talked to a lot of food truck operators to gauge their interest and get their buy-in,” said Shelton. “Like a field of dreams, the response I’ve gotten is: “If you build it we will come.” 

Why food trucks? Why now?

“This is being driven by a need,” said Shelton. “There are more and more well-run food trucks, but Cookeville has fewer spaces where they can park.”

The park’s location is a former rail yard with many railroad ties including some massive support beams unearthed during excavation and was once used as a railroad loading dock.

“It’s not just about sitting at a table,” said Shelton. “We want to create a space in town that encourages people to mingle.”

A railyard setting for a food truck park is a creative choice, but a shared space with a long and charming history matches the vibe of the WestSide. 

“A portion of Trackside will be set aside for yard games including corn hole and a giant Connect 4,” said Shelton. “Free public parking and restrooms is adjoining Trackside. With the downtown depot location, people will be able to ride their bikes, run or walk to the site.”

The site will be handicapped-accessible with open-air dining and picnic tables.

“Trackside will also feature the latest technology in Fiber and Wi-Fi for streaming,” according to Shelton. 

Shelton, who also owns Shelton Business Solutions (SBS), says the area will benefit his customers.

“With my marketing background, I will utilize that (SBS) to promote the venue …,” he said. “Also, we will offer on-site digital advertising for businesses showing on large screens at the venue. This can be for general brand building or special offers.”

Shelton says he will be an active owner to ensure the “vision is carried out.” The vision is to feature local and live music performances on Friday and Saturday nights and special events, like movie nights, football tailgate parties, and as is on brand with the former Mayor, Christmas events with Santa.

“Trackside will be family-friendly and open to people of all ages, perfect for students, business professionals and families,” says Shelton. “We researched and visited food truck parks in other states and tried to incorporate best practices from each place.”

The feedback has been good thus far.

“It’s been encouraging,” admitted Shelton. “People are engaged with food trucks, the quality and creative cuisine. There’s a need for more venues for people to enjoy that experience, especially families. This is about a local celebration of food.”

Shelton is confident the project will enhance the depot, the WestSide and will help grow an already expansive and prosperous area in the city. 

“They can use us to grow and sustain their small business,” said Shelton. “I fully expect people to see Trackside and for other chefs to dip into the food truck game.”

Shelton doesn’t want to “compete with the local restaurants.”

“On the contrary, I think this will bring more people to the area,” he said. “We want to help Cookeville become a front-runner and a pathfinder for the food truck scene in Tennessee.”

Trackside will be open year round Wednesday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information visit www.tracksidecookeville.com

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