by Mallory Moad
Disneyland may be known as the ‘Happiest Place on Earth,’ but every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening the happiest place in Fresno is Gazebo Gardens nursery. That’s where you’ll find a lively celebration of all things local with live music, food trucks, families, friends, dogs, bicycles, and more smiles than you can count.
What began four years ago as a series of fund raisers for Creative Fresno has become one of the most popular events in town. According to Scott Miller, CEO of Gazebo Gardens, the weekly food truck and music nights are “a small temporary thing that got bigger than we thought would happen.” There are more food trucks participating now than there were in 2012, and the crowds have grown, too. Miller stressed the importance of respect for the neighborhood Gazebo Gardens calls home. “If this didn’t add to the neighborhood or to the nursery, it wouldn’t be happening.”
Although I have performed at Gazebo Gardens many times, I decided to check out the scene from a different vantage point and find out just what draws people to this weekly function. I parked my trusty VW two blocks away and could hear music and laughter as I approached on foot.
The atmosphere is casual and tables and chairs are scattered throughout this unusual, but charming venue. You can sit near the stage or in a location that is more conversation-friendly. Or maybe you’d like to share the company of a whimsical 5-foot tall T-rex built from repurposed metal. On this warm April night, it was standing room only — and not just for that dinosaur. The place was hopping, and it was only 6:00.
I soon discovered that everyone had a different reason for being there. When asked the motivation for her visit, artist Aileen Imperatrice said she was going to meet some friends, eat some good Pad Thai, and hear the featured band, Boxcar Figaro. “All these things are combined in one place so it was an easy choice.” The high-spirited Johns family was having a birthday celebration. Most of the seventeen members of the group had never been to the food truck nights at the nursery. The destination was chosen on the recommendation of a friend. When asked if they’d be returning, an enthusiastic chorus responded, “Definitely!”
Not everyone I spoke with lived nearby, or even in Fresno. The Penner and Kopper families came all the way from Reedley, and have done so on many occasions. For them, the appeal was variety. “Food trucks give you the opportunity to try new things without spending a lot of money,” said Zach Penner. He said it’s also a good place to meet up with friends, and “It’s great for people-watching!”
A specific purpose isn’t necessary to partake of these weekly festivities. Perhaps your curiosity has gotten the better of you, and like me, you want to see for yourself what it is about this neighborhood gem that makes it so special. And why not? In the words of singer-songwriter Victor DesRoches, “Tonight the weather is perfect!”
3204 N. Van Ness Blvd, Fresno
(559) 222-7673 (222-ROSE)