Festival leaves Topekans hungry

As many as 4,000 gathered on Friday and Saturday for the first Visit Topeka-sponsored food truck festival, which featured 13 trucks from Topeka and the surrounding area. (ERIC SMITH/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL)

Festival leaves Topekans hungry

Thousands pack Gage Park; some waited two hours for food
June 16, 2015

Last weekend’s food truck festival in Gage Park left patrons hungry for more.

As many as 4,000 gathered on Friday and Saturday for the first Visit Topeka-sponsored food truck festival, which featured 13 trucks from Topeka and the surrounding area.

The popularity of the event surprised organizers who expected 500 to 1,000 festival goers, Rosa Cavazos, tourism development manager for Visit Topeka, said.

By Friday night all the food trucks had run out of food and some people waited in line for as long as two hours. Some people waited in line only to find out the truck was out of food, she said.

“It was a little overwhelming for both the cooks and the folks waiting, but I think there was some understanding,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised with the turn out.”

The event attracted not just Topekans but also people from Lawrence, Manhattan and Council Grove, she said. Next year organizers plan to spread trucks out more to alleviate crowd congestion and include more trucks.

An event for the fall geared more towards adults and featuring a beer garden or alcohol sales is the works, Cavazos said.

On social media, comments about the festival were largely positive.

“Great event! We’d love to see more!” Jodi Wills wrote on the Visit Topeka Facebook page.

On a story about the festival The Topeka Capital-Journal posted on it’s Facebook page, Laurie Meares Hertel wrote “We gladly waited in line for 20 minutes for HHB.”

But some were unhappy with the possibility of long lines.

“I would’ve loved to go but didn’t want to stand in line for hours just for food,” Katie Schwermann wrote on the Capital-Journal post.

Mike Weibel of Front Door Catering, which serves primarily barbecue but also wraps and other food, said he was frustrated his truck wasn’t allowed into last weekend’s festival, but trucks from outside Topeka were.

After hearing about the event in the spring he contacted Visit Topeka, but was told the number of trucks was limited. He said he asked to put on waiting list, but never got a call when the event expanded.

“We’re a local truck, and we promote locally,” he said adding that he contributes to local sales taxes. “Those people from out of town are going to take the money and run.”

For the first year Cavazos said she tried to limit trucks so only one truck served a certain type of food, and HHB had been locked into the barbecue slot from the beginning. Some truck menus did overlap, she said.

“I would have loved to have 25 trucks,” she said. “Next year we’ll have more barbecue.”


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