Seemingly endless food choices with side orders of sunny skies, weather in the upper 70s and music in the air made the fourth Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck Competition the area’s premier attraction on Saturday.
Offerings from Argentine comfort food and reuben balls to All-American burgers and pizza meant if you walked away from Veteran’s Park hungry, it wasn’t from a lack of variety.
Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q took grand champion honors as top food truck as selected by a panel of local judges. The award comes with a $10,000 grand prize.
The Dayton-based truck finished second in 2016. Its signature dish, a wagyu short rib taco, was the judges’ choice.
Jeff Stringer of Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q described the dish as an American equivalent of Kobe beef. He also takes pride in serving honey instead of refined sugar in its dishes.
“I thought getting second last year was phenomenal,” he said. “I cook what I like and hope others like it. Now I can’t wait till next year.”
Stringer wants to use part of the prize money to bottle his own sauces.
Runner-up was Streetpops from Cincinnati, winning $5,000, and newcomer Barroluco Argentine of Columbus came in third, earning $2,000.
For the first time this year, a People’s Choice Award was added, with more than 500 voting for The Beerded Pig of Blanchester, which also serves BBQ. Jeff Stringer’s nephew Caleb Stringer and Dean Rivera were excited for the title and its $1,000 award.
“That means we really have to bring it next year,” said Rivera.
Following a day of downpours that hampered 2016’s competition, the beautiful weather complemented Saturday’s experience.
Joe and Julie Caplinger of Springfield have attended all four competitions. While Joe comes for the main courses, Julie is “dessert-driven” according to her spouse, with eyes on the waffles and popsicles.
Their 3- and 6-year-old kids agreed with mom’s preference.
The competition is now a Caplinger family tradition.
“As long as they have food down here, we’ll be down here,” he said.
The event was good timing for Randy Mills, who celebrates his birthday on Sunday. He got caught in the rain during his first visit last year, but was still eager to return with wife Theresa.
She discovered what she’d missed while enjoying a raspberry, lime and coconut ice pop. She saw others walking around with the treats and had to have one.
“It’s like a smoothie on a stick is the best way to describe it,” said Theresa, who was determined to come to the event despite her ankle being in an air boot due to an Achilles injury.
The Christian Brothers Meat Company truck had a unique marketing approach — a live musician. Local singer/songwriter Ryan Fyffe sang and played guitar atop the truck.
The movements inside meant he was rocking and rolling while being rocked and rolled, but had fun with the experience and the diverse crowd.
“It was great, nobody was telling at me to turn it down,” Fyffe said, laughing. “It was definitely a change of pace.”
Attendance numbers weren’t available, but Rotary event chairman Bill Brougher was pleased the weather and wide selection brought out the crowds.
“We think it could be the biggest yet. The popularity for food trucks hasn’t peaked yet, and with the improved layout and better effort in marketing, it’s been great.”
Rotary uses the proceeds for a variety of charitable programs.