Thousands of foodies gathered in Veterans Park today to relish the array of 37 unique food trucks, enjoy locally-crafted beer and mingle with other food truck lovers, all while celebrating with grand prize winner, Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q, and the first-ever People’s Choice Award winner, The Beerded Pig, in what became a family affair.
With 13 new food trucks and 24 returning competitors, attendees savored the variety of cuisine available at the Springfield Rotary Club’s fourth annual Gourmet Food Truck Competition.
After reworking the prize categories for this year’s competition, a $10,000 grand prize, $5,000 runner-up prize and $2,000 third place prize were up for grabs. Among other changes to prizes this year, the first-ever People’s Choice Award was a big hit for the event, said Eddie Bell, Rotary member and Food Truck Competition marketing committee chair.
“With the event becoming more and more popular each year, attendees have been asking for a way to help decide who wins,” said Bell. “The People’s Choice Award was the perfect addition to accomplish this and was vital to making attendees more engaged with the competition.”
Five celebrity judges who are local culinary professionals – Doug McGregor (Seasons Bistro and Grille); Elizabeth Wiley (Meadowlark); Micah Berner (Cecil and Lime); Zach Johnson (Springfield Country Club); and John da Rosa (Seasons Bistro and Grille) – tasted all the food trucks’ signature dishes and scored each dish based on numerous categories.
Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q, of Dayton, took home the grand prize, while Streetpops (Cincinnati) and Barroluco Argentine, of Columbus, were named runner-up and second runner-up, respectively. And, with over 500 votes cast from attendees during the event, The Beerded Pig took home the People’s Choice Award and a $1,000 prize.
In a unique family twist on the competition, the owner of Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q, Jeff Stringer, shared the spotlight with his nephew, Caleb Stringer, of The Beerded Pig. The two often compete together at barbecue events under another vendor name.
Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q took home the top prize with its signature Waygu Short Rib Taco.
“To have five chefs judge your food and say it’s the best is the ultimate compliment to me, having no culinary training. I just cook what I like and hope people like it,” said Jeff Stringer.
Over 10 percent of voters helped The Beerded Pig take home the inaugural People’s Choice award.
“Do you want to have the best plate that you sell two of, or do you want to have good food that everybody likes?” said Dean Rivera of The Beerded Pig. “We’re happy that everybody likes our food, and it’s great to see the support from everybody that got us up on stage today. We’ve got to bring it next year.”
In addition to the array of food trucks that made Veterans Park home for the day, six local bands and performers headlined the competition. Solo artists Andy Fox and Patrick Dawson kept things acoustic, while Terrapin Moon, Allison Road, Mad River Railroad and the Ark Band plugged-in for some original band sets.
The money raised from the sales of drinks and T-shirts, in addition to corporate sponsorships, benefit the many charitable causes of the Springfield Rotary Club, such as helping individuals with disabilities, and supporting international projects, such as Polio Plus and various projects in Lesotho, Africa.
“We believe this is the biggest event we’ve had yet,” said Springfield Rotary President Bill Brocker. “We don’t think the popularity of food trucks has peaked yet, and the quality of trucks we have here really bring out a large crowd. The out-of-towners that come for the competition are really impressed by the facility we have at the park and how well run the competition is. Pencil us in for next year’s competition; we’ll be back the second Saturday in August.”
After having moved from Columbus to Springfield two years ago, Marty Dennis brought his family and friends to Veterans Park to take part in the day’s festivities for the first time.
“It’s another event that Springfield offers that makes you glad to live in this city,” he said.