Arts & Culture

Food truck festival rolls onto College Hill for Family Weekend

Festival aims to increase awareness of Brown University Oncology Research Group

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Smells of food — predominantly tacos — wafted through the air as students and their families lined up for nourishment from a diverse array of food trucks at the Brown University Oncology Research Group Food Truck Festival Saturday afternoon. In attendance were Mijos Tacos, Citizen Wing, O’Crepe and the Salad Man and Juice Bar Food Truck, which took over the walk outside the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Local Providence band the Chicago Robbery kicked off the event with a performance at noon, blasting covers of Beatles songs and other hope-themed tunes and exhorting attendees to donate to support cancer research. Lizzie Davis ’15 and Michael Weinstein ’15 performed as well.

The Food Truck Festival incorporated itself into Family Weekend — students and visitors alike clustered around tall tables adorned with pink that were set up for the event and sat on the grassy Granoff steps, while other passers-by simply took it all in.

Attendees enjoyed the festive but relaxed atmosphere. “It’s a gorgeous day, the music reminds me of when I was in college and people are comfortable,” said Elizabeth Eden, a parent in attendance.

The Food Truck Festival celebrated the 20th anniversary of BrUOG, which focuses on innovative clinical trials and works to develop new treatments for lung, brain, breast, prostate and gastrointestinal cancers.

“BrUOG’s trials are unique because they are investigator-initiated — conceptualized by practicing physicians, not by pharmaceutical companies,” said Kristen Mitchell, clinical research coordinator for BrUOG. “As such, these trials represent an incredibly important sector of cancer research.”

Despite it’s 20-year-long presence at the University, the group does not have a very visible campus presence, she said. BrUOG’s anniversary provides it with an opportunity for exposure through this celebration.

“We want to allow students to participate in what we do and how we do it. We’ve been around for 20 years and done some pretty amazing things, so we need to come home and get more acclimated to our community and get our community more acclimated to us,” Mitchell said.

Derek Shay ’16, the group’s sole intern and organizer of the event, said “I wanted something that was really accessible to all age groups and different communities within Brown and Providence, so I thought food trucks were a great way because food always brings people together.”

“Part of the reason we made the decision to do this over Family Weekend was that we wanted to involve not only the students but also the greater community, including parents and faculty,” Mitchell added.

In the past, BrUOG has sponsored a walk-a-thon in the spring to raise money for cancer research, an event that will occur again this year. But this is the first time the group has sponsored a fall fundraiser, and the festival marks the first food truck-focused event for the group, Shay said, adding that he hopes the festival will become an annual event organized by future interns.

Russell Spellman, CEO of the Salad Man and Juice Bar, said the event was “a good idea,” because it allowed him to contribute to a cause as well as exposing his truck to a wider audience.

“Brown students like to eat healthy, so our food matches up with them very well: fresh juices and smoothies, salads, rice bowls,” Spellman said.

The festival’s soundtrack was also tailored to the campus community.

Shay approached Justin DeMars, the singer of the Chicago Robbery, to ask his band to perform. The Chicago Robbery has an expansive repertoire and tailors each performance to the audience at hand, DeMars said. The music could not be too solemn because people were supposed to have a good time, he said, so the band performed songs such as “This Is Why We Fight” by The Decembrists. DeMars connected the song’s message to the struggle cancer patients face daily.

“Jay (the band’s guitarist) and I like to pick one or two charities a year to work with, and I think that the work the Oncology Research Group does is super important. Developing early-stage treatment is hopefully one way to combat horrible disease,” DeMars said, adding that he has personal investment in the fight against cancer.

“I lost my dad to cancer 25 years ago. I have friends that fight it, that have fought long and are currently still fighting,” he said. “There’s every reason in the world to do it, and there’s not one reason not to.”

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