GastroFest Partners with MOSH to Bring Jax’s Favorite Food Festival to Friendship Fountain

DELICOUSLY DUVAL

The recipe for a successful food festival is simple. Never run out of food. Obvious food pun aside, producing an event centered around food is more than just a matter of taste and now in its fourth year, GastroFest has proven to be more than a spread of local cuisine.

It’s a carefully curated offering of vendors including food trucks, restaurants, mobile stand-alones, and caterers alongside free and ticketed workshops and tastings, catering to every palette from simple to sophisticated. It’s also vegan-friendly, offering a “food map” to direct vegans to specific vendors and events that meet their culinary needs.

GastroFest 2018, Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville, Florida, MOSH, food festival

Celebrating the city’s culinary community, the 4th annual GastroFest will be held March 24 at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) and Friendship Fountain. The festival is cash-based and patrons are encouraged to visit the ATM prior to entering GastroFest. Each tasting vendor is required to have a sample from $1-$3. General entry is free to the event which will be held rain or shine.

Gilbert's Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, GastroFest
Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp

Patrons can also take advantage of VIP tickets this year with a number of different packages available at various prices. The Full Plate experience is the most exclusive at $150, which includes admission to all of the workshops for the day, the vegan wine tasting, GastroFest Selects on the rooftop of MOSH, giveaways from marketplace vendors such as Congaree and Penn and Little Black Box, three drinks and festival swag.

Each package includes rooftop access, tastes from Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish + Shrimp, Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, Town Hall, The Bread & Board, and Berndt Ends BBQ, indoor bathroom access, entry into the MOSH, and a commemorative GastroFest cup. Everything except the Designated Driver ($60) includes at least two drinks at the fest. Tickets are available at https://904tix.com/events/full-vip-gastrofest

“We love MOSH and we thought that Friendship Fountain was an underutilized venue, and thought it was a great way to shake things up a little bit and showcase our gorgeous river.”

This year marks the first in partnership with MOSH as the festival venue. The festival was previously held at Hemming Park. “Our intention, in the beginning, was to go to different areas of Jacksonville every year, but the folks over at Hemming have been so outstanding that we spent the last three years there. The city had been continually threatening to pull funding from Friends of Hemming Park. They are still around and doing great things, and we may partner with them again in the future, but we wanted to explore a little more,” says festival founder and Executive Director Erin Thursby.

Jacksonville's Museum of Science & History, Photo by Fran Ruchalski
Jacksonville’s Museum of Science & History, Photo by Fran Ruchalski

“We love MOSH and we thought that Friendship Fountain was an underutilized venue, and thought it was a great way to shake things up a little bit and showcase our gorgeous river.”

The schedule includes the Jax Beer Society Homebrew Competition on the deck of the River City Brewing Company featuring the best in locally homebrewers have to offer i.e. free beer. Patrons have an opportunity to taste and learn at the Sawyer Gas Demo Stage at Friendship Fountain. Native Sun will host a plant-based cooking demo and local rice-growers at Congaree & Penn offer a product demo found in locally sourced restaurants as well as the GastroFest marketplace.

Beer:30 Home Brew Contest at GastroFest 2015
The Home Brew Competition is always one of the most popular events at GastroFest

Local favorite Community Loaves returns GastroFest with a class on the secrets of sourdough bread-making. The hands-off class features a discussion of sourdough bread and will include a starter dough to take home. Individual tickets are currently sold out but admission is available as part of VIP at GastroFest in the top two tiers VIP Full Plate or VIP + Workshops. Follow this event on Facebook as more tickets may be released.

GastroFest 2015 in Hemming Park, Downtown Jacksonville
Community Loaves workshop from GastroFest 2015

The Bee Friends Farm will be on hand with honey-tasting that will teach attendees about the differences between types of honey. Expect to take away a sample jar of your favorite as part of the experience.

Learn about kimchi and how to make it at home from Chef Kerri Rogers of Bellwether and the Black Sheep Restaurant Group. Traditional and non-traditional variations of kimchi will be discussed in this hands-off class, and participants will take home a recipe card. A limited number of tickets are available. The class will be held inside the Wells Fargo Room at MOSH.

Bellwether, Black Sheep Restaurant Group, Downtown Jacksonville, Florida, Chef Kerri Rogers, The Chef Selects
Chef Kerri Rogers

What makes a wine vegan? Find out at a Vegan Wine Tasting which includes a flight of four wines, two red, two white, along with vegan fare from The Zen Butcher Company. Only a limited amount of tickets are available this year, as it will also be included in our top tier of VIP tickets. The tasting will be held in the Wells Fargo Room MOSH. Both dedicated vegans and wine loving omnivores have enjoyed this yearly event at the fest.

With a name like GastroFest, Thursby says the vendors must be related to food, if not entirely consumable. “We try to stay as food and beverage-centric as we possibly can. There’s plenty of food-fests-in-name-only that end up turning into craft shows with a few food vendors. Our marketplace is an outstanding way to be introduced to local food artisans some of which do markets here, and some like Saturiwa which are harder to find regularly,” she says.

“If we have something like Zany Du, we make sure they have something that ties back to food. Last year they sold onesies and t-shirts for kids that said “I Love You More than Cheese” and I actually own one of their kitchen towels that says “I Forking Love Eating Local.” This year we also have we have scented soy candles from MacMaddie’s, which use recycled craft beer cans, many of which are local.”

GastroFest 2015 in Hemming Park, Downtown Jacksonville

Stacking the vendor time slots helps maintain a rotating menu of food options and ensure there are plenty of new flavors available. “We have all-day vendors, but we also have some that come in just from 11 am-3 pm and in from 3 p.m.-7 pm,” says Thursby. “Even if some of our vendors run out, the new vendors coming in at 3 p.m. ensure that you’ll be able to find something at the fest to eat, no matter what.”

In her role as Executive Director, Thursby oversees all the moving parts of the fest as well as the GastroJax organization and she’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get in the trenches. Whether handing out flyers, updating social media, recruiting vendors, coordinating trash pickup, making sure there is enough ice, helping to organize volunteers, setting up events within the fest, Thursby does whatever is needed to ensure the festival’s success.

“I have a great team of dedicated folks doing awesome work and I could not do it without them. Our board of volunteers is very much a working board and everyone pitches in to get stuff done. Our board members, Jessica Fields, Rachel Henley, Kamron Perry, and Nate Price are all essential to the fest. We have some great volunteers outside of the board as well. This year Cassie Susemihl is doing our volunteer coordination. Brentley Stead always helps us out. This year she’s going to be shadowing me for the day, and has a pretty broad understanding of the fest, as she’s had different roles over the years,” she says.

“The research and development done last year by our Green Action Committee, headed up by Anna Rabhan has really helped us to figure out improvement points for this year. Melissa Morgan helps us with sponsorship and sales. Jaime Sanborn and her husband Sean have lent their organizing superpowers to our info tent. Shannon Crisp does a fantastic job of helping our vendors get to their slots, and we’re looking forward to having Kellie Abrahamson’s help in our Fun4FirstCoast Kids Zone this year. There are plenty more awesome volunteers that make the fest possible.”

As the Food Editor for EU Jacksonville, Thursby brings more than a decade of food-centric experience to the table. It was her who developed an idea of a food festival that would be easy to swallow if thoughtfully curated. Thursby and the GastroFest team first unveiled the proposal at One Spark in 2014.

“The food scene had just gotten to a point where I thought that we could do a real food festival. At that point I’d been a food writer here for about 10 years, and I thought, ‘why not?’” she says. “One Spark was at a place where I thought I could use it to promote the idea and see what people wanted out of it. It was a great experience.”

Since its inception, GastroFest has incorporated a variety of eco-friendly elements to help both vendors and patrons find greener ways to enjoy the event and protect the environment. Last year, event staff collected the leftover food waste in “food only” bins to be fed as “swill” to local pigs. This year, GastroFest is asking that vendors not use plastic water bottles and will supply recyclable water boxes to festivalgoers.

“We’ve gotten greener with each passing year. Festivals generate a lot of waste, so we’ve tried each year to eliminate waste as much as we can. Our #greeninggastrofest hashtag campaign has helped raise awareness. Each year we do giveaways to folks that post the ways they’ve helped with that–buying one of our cups, biking to the fest, taking the skyway, bringing your own forks, or using our recycling stations,” says Thursby. “If you post a picture with the hashtag there’s a chance to win gift certificates to restaurants and other things.”

Even with all of the new elements, the mission of GastroFest remains the same; to foster and preserve local cuisine, educate the public about local food and beverage sources, local restaurants and make Jacksonville a culinary destination. The cultural significance of what we eat, food history, eating healthy, different food ways, how to cook using math, science, and art are all part of a bigger picture.

As the five-year anniversary approaches, Thursby says she hoping to grow GastroFest from a single-day event to multiple days with an increased emphasis on green elements. She would also like to find a way to involve the smaller, more obscure restaurants that are often unable to participate because of weekend staffing issues or the challenges associated with a large-scale event and widen their reach.

“It’s advantageous because it introduces them to people who love to eat, and it’s kind of a one-stop exploration for people who are new to the area or just folks who want to know more about what’s good to eat in the area,” she says. “People don’t always understand what we have here. If we don’t celebrate and highlight what we’ve got, some of the more interesting places won’t be around for long. Food is one of the things we have in common with everyone we meet. It’s a great unifier!”

Parking & Transportation

GastroFest encourages its patrons to Park & Ride. Jacksonville Transportation Authority will provide free Skyway service 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fest-goers should get off at the San Marco Skyway Station and First Coast Flyer Blue Line which are right next door to Jacksonville’s Museum of Science & History and Friendship Fountain.

Tastes at GastroFest

11-3pm
Black Sheep at 5 Points
Black Sheep at Intuition
German Schnitzel Haus
House of Leaf & Bean

3-7pm
Bellwether
Candy Apple Cafe
Jax Diner
Orsay

All-Day Vendors
Blue Bamboo
Bold City Sauces Kitchen on Wheels
Bread & Board
El Mariachi Loko
Ibex Ethiopian Kitchen
Khloe’s Kitchen
Nomi’s Cheese Bar
Sliders Seafood Grille
Sunshine Grindz

Marketplace Vendors

Amaretti Desserts
Bark on Park (sponsor)
B & D Hot sauce
Bee Friends Farm
MacMaddie’s Candles
Chameleon Cold Brew (sponsor)
Congaree & Penn
Cultivate Tea & Spice
Flour & Fig Bakehouse
Front Porch Kettle Corn
Front Porch Pickings
Fuzzy’s Refreshments
Green Man Gourmet
Guanabana Ice Pops and More
Hit Pops
Home Performance Alliance (sponsor)
Little Black Box Baked Goods
Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company
Pampered Chef
Rummies & Yummies
Saturiwa Mobile Market
Topsy Toffee
Zany Du
Zen BUTCHER COMPANY

Alcohol

Aardwolf
Atlantic Beach Brewing Company
Bold City
Breakthru
Engine 15
Green Room
Intuition
Manifest Distilling
McKenzie’s Cider
Pinglehead
Veterans United
River City Brewing Company (exclusively at VIP)
AND MORE….

FUSION LIGHT & SOUND MUSIC STAGE

12:00 Gabe Darling
01:20 Shawn Pfaffman – Southern Jazz Piano
02:50 Black Calla
04:20 Mudtown
05:45 Billy & Bella

SAWYER GAS DEMO STAGE

Taste and learn at the demo stage in Friendship Fountain on March 24th during GastroFest. Sponsored by Sawyer Gas, who has also provided the gas cooking burner for the stage. FREE to watch inside the park!

Noon Black Garlic is a delicacy that you should be using in your kitchen! Learn more at this demo from Fred Bergen of Artisan Black Garlic and buy your own at the Saturiwa mobile market during GastroFest!

12:30pm Wild Mushrooms are under-appreciated on the First Coast, but we’d like to change that! Mike Stowers from Saturiwa’s mobile market will be cooking up mushrooms and teaching you about the fungus among us, from the various types, to storage, cleaning tips and more.

1:30pm Native Sun Eat better at this plant-based cooking demo, with locally delicious grocers Native Sun! If you haven’t been to one of their locations, you’re missing out!

2:45pm Secrets of Liquid Nitrogen Join MOSH as we learn the science and the secrets of Liquid Nitrogen, such as how it’s made and why it’s so useful in the culinary world. Then, witness MOSH’s mad scientists use nitrogen to create explosive results!

4:15pm Congaree & Penn, our local Jacksonville rice-growers, take the stage for a demo of their divine products, found in locally sourced restaurants and our marketplace!

5:15pm The Gadget Guy (aka Jeff Spear) introduces essential culinary tools, unusual gadgets, and fundamental cooking techniques to audiences hungry for better and more enjoyable cooking experiences. Spear is President of Studio Spear (a global branding agency specializing in culinary industries) and author of two cookbooks. The Gadget Guy appears every Sunday night at 6:30pm on CW17’s I Know Jax.

SPECIAL EVENTS

11am SECRETS OF SOURDOUGH WITH COMMUNITY LOAVES Community Loaves once again contributes to GastroFest with a class on the secrets of sourdough bread-making. The hands-off class features a discussion of sourdough bread, and will include starter dough for you to take with you. Individual tickets are currently sold out. There are some available as part of VIP at GastroFest in the top two tiers: GastroFest VIP FULL PLATE or VIP + Workshops on 904tix.com. Please do continue to follow this event on Facebook in case more tickets are released.

12:15pm HONEY TASTING COURSE WITH BEE FRIENDS FARM Learn about the differences between the types of honey. Expect to take away a sample jar of your favorite as part of the experience. Cost $12 before fees. https://904tix.com/events/honey-tasting-with-bee-friends-farm

1:30pm KIMCHI CLASS WITH BELLWETHER Learn about kimchi and how to make it at home from Chef Kerri Rogers of Bellwether and the Black Sheep Restaurant Group. Traditional and non-traditional variations of kimchi will be discussed in this hands-off class, and participants will take home a recipe card. Class will be held inside the Wells Fargo Room at the Museum of Science & History. $11.25 total with fees included. A limited number of tickets are available, so reserve your spot today! https://904tix.com/events/kimchi-class

3pm JAX BEER SOCIETY HOMEBREW COMPETITION Held on the River Deck outside the River City Brewing Company from 3-4pm. Come taste what our local homebrewers have to offer (in other words, FREE BEER!) as they go head-to-head in a fun and friendly competition. A popular event, back again for the fourth year!

5:30pm VEGAN WINE TASTING WITH ZEN BUTCHER COMPANY Try a flight of four wines, two red, two white, along with vegan fare from The Zen Butcher Company! Both dedicated vegans and wine-loving omnivores have enjoyed this yearly event within the fest. Individual tickets are currently sold out. There are some available as part of VIP at GastroFest in the top tier VIP FULL PLATE EXPERIENCE on 904tix.com. Please do continue to follow this event on Facebook in case more tickets are released.

VIP PACKAGES

Choose from several VIP Packages for GastroFest! Some ticket packages are very limited. Packages range from $60 Designated Driver to the Full Plate VIP experience at $150.

Full Plate VIP Experience Ticket VERY LIMITED AMOUNT! $150
The most exclusive and limited of GastroFest’s VIP tickets. You’ll have a full day of foodie activity, from the morning and early afternoon workshops, time at the VIP rooftop for exclusive tastes, to included access to our end-of-day Vegan Wine Tasting. You’ll also get three alcoholic beverages and fest swag, like our GastroFest 2018 t-shirt and cup! See below for full details on all you get.
-Admission to Museum of Science & History for the day
-Access to bathrooms inside Museum of Science & History
-Access to ALL 3 PAID workshops 11am-2:30pm in the Wells Fargo room at the Museum of Science & History (Includes Sourdough Bread Workshop from Community Loaves, Kimchi Class with Bellwether, & Honey Tasting Class with Bee Friends Farm
-Parking at River City Brewing Company
-Access to GastroFest Selects, a taste of Jacksonville restaurants selected especially for VIPs on the MOSH Rooftop from 1-4pm including Moxie, Town Hall, Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, Berndt Ends BBQ
-THREE drink tickets which can be used at GastroFest Selects or in the general festival
-General access to Jax Beer Society Homebrew Competition at 3 pm. Sample homebrew beer, free to the public as well
-One commemorative cup for the fest
-Bottle of Shrub from Congaree and Penn
-small jar of jam from Little Black Box Baked Goods
-Fest t-shirt
-Ticket to VEGAN WINE TASTING at 5:30 pm
-does not include general tasting at main fest, that’s cash-based

VIP Selects Access + Workshops VERY LIMITED AMOUNT $111
-Access to ALL 3 PAID workshops 11am-2:30pm in the Wells Fargo room at the Museum of Science & History (Includes Sourdough Bread Workshop from Community Loaves, Kimchi Class with Bellwether, & Honey Tasting Class with Bee Friends Farm
-Admission to Museum of Science & History for the day
-Access to bathrooms inside Museum of Science & History
-Access to GastroFest Selects, a taste of Jacksonville restaurants selected especially for VIPs on the MOSH Rooftop from 1-4pm including Moxie, Town Hall, Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, Berndt Ends BBQ
-General access to Jax Beer Society Homebrew Competition at 3pm. Sample homebrew beer, free to the public as well
-One commemorative cup for the fest
-bag of purple grits from Congaree and Penn
-Two drink tickets which can be used at GastroFest Selects or in the general festival
-does not include general tasting at main fest, that’s cash-based

VIP Selects Access $75
-Admission to Museum of Science & History for the day
-Access to bathrooms inside Museum of Science & History
-Access to GastroFest Selects, a taste of Jacksonville restaurants selected especially for VIPs on the MOSH Rooftop from 1-4pm including Moxie, Town Hall, Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, Berndt Ends BBQ
-General access to Jax Beer Society Homebrew Competition at 3pm. Sample homebrew beer, free to the public as well
-One commemorative cup for the fest
-Two drink tickets which can be used at GastroFest Selects or in the general festival
-does not include general tasting at main fest, that’s cash-based

Designated Driver VIP Selects + NO alcohol $60
-Admission to Museum of Science & History for the day
-Access to bathrooms inside Museum of Science & History
-Access to GastroFest Selects, a taste of Jacksonville restaurants selected especially for VIPs on the MOSH Rooftop from 1-4pm including Moxie, Town Hall, Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, Berndt Ends BBQ
-One commemorative cup for the fest
-does not include general tasting at main fest, that’s cash-based

VIP Selects Access + T-shirt $90
-Admission to Museum of Science & History for the day
-Access to bathrooms inside Museum of Science & History
-Access to GastroFest Selects, a taste of Jacksonville restaurants selected especially for VIPs on the MOSH Rooftop from 1-4pm including Moxie, Town Hall, Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp, Berndt Ends BBQ
-General access to Jax Beer Society Homebrew Competition at 3pm. Sample homebrew beer, free to the public as well
-One commemorative cup for the fest
-One GastroFest 2018 Fest T-shirt
-Two drink tickets which can be used at GastroFest Selects or in the general festival
-does not include general tasting at main fest, that’s cash-based

For more information or to purchase tickets go to gastrojax.org.

About Liza Mitchell