One Spark Creator – GASTROFEST 2015

Have you heard about Gastrofest 2015? It’s a One Spark project with the hefty aspiration of creating a food and beer festival that will bring national attention and (over)due respect to our evolving food and craft beer scene.
Erin Thursby (EU Jacksonville’s Food Editor) is the creative mastermind behind this project. While still early in its genesis, the mission is to create a very inclusive festival that celebrates our local talent, from fine dining to farmers, and everything in between. For the inaugural year, the festival will be a single day event, but will eventually grow into a multi-day experience. The core of the festival will take place in town, but event producers hope to make it a city-wide event to garner as much interest and support for the project as possible. Clearly, getting food enthusiasts engaged is key. By engaging both locals and tourists, the festival can serve to educate and inform, preserve and elevate. While a local ethos is at the core of the project, event producers know that being inclusive of the Southeastern region as a whole, with both visitors and vendors, will widen the scope of this festival and allow the Jacksonville food scene to touch and be touched by a broader audience.
Such idea sharing is a key component to the planning and design of the festival. The planning committee is doing extensive research into how other cities have structured such events and is looking to borrow some of the most successful aspects from around the county and pull them all together to make a festival that is uniquely Jacksonville. For instance, Erin Thursby says that she likes Chicago’s Taste ticketing system, but prefers Charleston’s overall event organization. This Taste ticketing item would mean that general admission would be free, but specialty events, such as chef demos, tastings, and dinners would be priced separately.
It’s hard to believe that I have been part of Jacksonville’s food scene for close to 9 years. When I moved back from Miami in 2005, there was a paucity of restaurants, local farms, and the closest thing to a food truck was a hot dog cart. I saw the potential for a vibrant and eclectic food scene, and luckily I wasn’t in the minority. In less than a decade, chefs, craft brewers, restaurateurs, food truckies, and bloggers have created a food scene to be proud of. From vegan and vegetarian, to burgers and chops, from southern comfort to Asian, the food scene is as varied as it is inspired. I am excited for Gastrfofest because it is another opportunity to put Jacksonville on the map. I’m going to do my part to make it happen. Are you with me?

Want to find out more, interested in becoming a Corporate Sponsor, or want to be a part of bringing this festival to Jax? First things first, be sure to vote for project # 20026 or visit their booth at the corner of Main Street Park during One Spark. Next, head to and sign up for the email newsletter, and then connect with them though FB (Gastrofest 2015) and Twitter. Or email

About Jennifer Earnest