UNION COUNTY, NJ — The summer of 2015 may be winding down but it is definitely not going away quietly. Billing itself as ‘a three day celebration of the rock and roll lifestyle,’ the Food Truck & Rock Carnival has set its sights on Clark and all are invited.
The festival is scheduled to take over Oak Ridge Park from Sept. 18 through Sept. 20 and according to promoter John D’Esposito, it will have something for everyone. Combining many of the biggest names from the hard rock and heavy metal genres with over 40 food trucks, JCW professional wrestling, gaming tournaments, amusement rides, craft brewers, BMX stunt shows, karaoke, comedians and more, D’Esposito was more than happy to elaborate on just what event goers can expect next month.
“We have two amazing worlds taking place side-by-side. One is the Food & Truck Carnival and the other is the Concert Experience,” he said. A simple overview of the weekend could be described as such: The Carnival will offer free admission to all starting that Friday, including access to many activities like live tribute bands, pro wrestling matches, food truck competitions and discount amusement rides. The Concert Experience includes different upcharge concert lineups featuring dozens of headliner acts performing on that Saturday and Sunday.
Assembling an event of this magnitude would be daunting to many, but D’Esposito is excited by and prepared for the challenge. As the founder of GameChanger, an artist development and event production company based out of Howell, he feels confident that everything will come together wonderfully next month. “We have a huge variety of in-house content and talent that we incubate all year long,” he said. “GameChanger puts on over 200 events per year and we provide the platform for shows similar to this.”
Oak Ridge Park is a sprawling 90-acre county park engulfing the Clark/North Edison border which in a former life was a popular golf course until 2009. And it was just this unique geography, location and size that D’Esposito found so appealing when scouting where the carnival would touch down. “We didn’t want to set this up at a horse racetrack or a car speedway. It’s not a dirt pit sort of thing,” he said. “This is an upscale event. We are really investing in a lot of resources and the proper infrastructure to make this happen. I think the market has longed for something just like this for years.”
Although the allure of food trucks and family-friendly activities will be certain to attract a huge crowd based on their own merits, the sound of music will dominate the weekend. The roster of live acts slated to take part in the Concert Experience include some of the biggest rock and roll superstars of the last 30 years. Slash & The Conspirators. Godsmack. Stone Temple Pilots. Three Days Grace. Black Label Society. Anthrax. Lita Ford. Puddle of Mudd. Sevendust. LA Guns. Slaughter. And that’s just for starters.
“We had a target list of acts that we really wanted and only two could not accept our offer. Unfortunately, both Incubus and Halestorm were already committed to other tour schedules,” D’esposito explained, proudly referring to this upcoming food and music extravaganza as “the Coachella of Metal.”
D’Esposito has an impressive history in the local music scene with a pedigree that will bring a smile to the face of many old school Garden State headbangers. “I grew up in New Jersey and I used to book acts at the legendary Birch Hill Nite Club in Old Bridge. Bands like Skid Row and T.T. Quick … many of these guys have been good friends for years,” he recalled fondly. “There came a point a while back when this carnival was finally being drawn up and I wanted to do a rock festival. And I really wanted to get many of the 80’s bands that we all grew up with. But I also wanted it to have a Jersey flavor to it musically. So it has bands like Edgar Cayce. It has Prophet. It has Skid Row. And Friday night will feature some of the best rock and roll tribute bands around performing for free until 10 p.m.”
When asked if he had any final thoughts or selling points concerning the big weekend in September, D’Esposito summed it up simply: “I want this festival to be the first concert where a guy like me who is 42 can bring the wife and kids. We are really excited about this and the biggest thing I would like to say is bring the entire family. It’s going to be an incredible weekend.”
Dave VanDeventer is an entertainment correspondent for Worrall Media. Look for his continued coverage of the Food Truck & Rock Carnival in future editions of the Union County LocalSource. For additional event information, concert schedules or to purchase tickets, go to www.therockcarnival.com.