Hunger strong for Springfield’s Rotary Food Truck Competition

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Some food fans arrived nearly an hour before opening of Saturday’s ninth annual Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck Competition.

Once the event opened for business in Veterans Park, 32 food trucks were competing for $10,000 in prize money by submitting signature dishes to a panel of judges.

“The weather is perfect, the trucks are happy, there’s a good crowd and a steady flow of traffic,” said Eddie Bell, event marketing chair as lunchtime crowds came through.

The event has built a reputation for offering a wide variety of foods, especially those that aren’t readily available, such as South African or Filipino fare. One new attendee that stood out was North American Indian Center of Central Ohio (NAICCO) Cuisine, a Columbus-based nonprofit serving American Indian foods such as its NDN tacos, taco bowls and buffalo burgers.

The center is about preserving and restoring balance in the lives of Native Americans.

As it represents a diverse tribal community, NAICCO’s truck was adorned with flags of several tribes and Native American music added to the atmosphere. Ty Smith, NAICCO project director, said it’s as much about spreading the word about the group as serving tasty food.

“It’s about representation and pride in our heritage. All the revenue we make goes back into our organization,” he said.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Last year’s competition champion, Biscuit Boss, told Smith about the Springfield event and they wanted to be involved and liked what they saw.

Daniel Robinson, visiting the event with family from Trotwood, is of Native-American heritage and was attracted to the NAICCO truck, choosing a buffalo burger.

One of the biggest news stories in recent days has been the devastation caused by wildfires in Hawaii. Two Hawaiian-themed food trucks, Dine-in Hawaiian and Aloha Tacos and More, accepted donations to go to charitable causes benefiting the disaster victims. The truck’s owners were fortunate none in their family were affected by the tragedy.

Aloha Tacos and More offered handcrafted leis for a donation, making the colorful creations the fashion statement of the day. It was the second competition for truck owner Aaron Kimura, who said he liked the crowd and the organization this event offers.

Kristina Downing, attending with her husband, Bud, bought a lei to support the cause as they shared Hawaiian delicacies.

Married for more than 30 years, Bud Downing said this reminded them of their first big trip as a couple to Hawaii. This was their second time to this event and planned to hit up several other trucks.

“We’re foodies, and we love to support local things,” she said.

It took Eric and Heidi Arrington of Aloha Tacos and More three tries to get a slot at the competition. They called the event well organized and appreciated the access to electricity, refrigeration and ice.

The longest line for the day with a wait time of up to 45 minutes to get served was for Childers’ Chimney Cakes. Those at the line’s end said they didn’t mind as they come to this event to get such treats. Helping pass the time for those waiting in lines were a range of music performers.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

The competition has helped Springfield Rotary raised around $300,000 for its charitable causes such as local projects, children with disabilities, scholarships and excellence in teaching.

Cash prizes were awarded to the first-, second- and third-place finishers and a people’s choice selection chosen by attendees on the Springfield Food Truck app.

The winner for the first time was Twisted Greek with its signature dish Midas Touch. Second place went to Dine-In Hawaiian, its first placing here, and third was Fetty’s Street Food, its third time placing in the competition.

The People’s Choice Award as voted by visitors was Fat Racks Smoking Co. from South Vienna, its fourth People’s Choice award here in the past five years.

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