Springfield is located far from any sea, maybe that’s why seafood vendors had some of the longest lines at the fifth Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck Competition.
The craving for lobster rolls, quesadillas and tots as well as crab cakes and cod was strong along with tastes for a variety of other offerings from the 32 food trucks in Veterans Park on Saturday.
The event was sponsored by the Springfield Rotary Club and is its biggest fundraiser of the year.
The rain of the previous day was absent, leaving Rotary marketing chair Eddie Bell with several reasons to be excited.
“The attendance was more consistent than it’s ever been. We had maybe a bigger opening than we’ve had,” he said.
First-timers and longtime participants dominated the awards. Cincinnati’s Urban Vistro claimed the $10,000 first prize for its Borocado martini dish in its competition debut.
Chef Vitor Abreu said he just missed the entry deadline previously, but this makes up for it.
A pair of veterans of all five competitions claimed second and third respectively – Mojo Tago of Columbus and Marty’s Waffles of Alexandria, Ky.
Mojo Tago has placed in the top three in four competitions now. It was Marty’s Waffles’ first food placing, although it twice won Best Truck and Cart Design, a category from the first two years of competition.
Abreu credited Marty’s for making him aware of the competition.
A panel of judges from local eateries judged a signature dish submitted from each truck.
An area vendor received the People’s Choice winner – Fat Racks Smoking Co., based in South Vienna. Attendees voted for the winner through an app.
Fat Racks owner Ryan Krugh attended previous food truck competitions as a spectator. The truck has been all over the area and was glad to be a part of this competition.
“Being voted by the people is the best part of it,” Krugh said.
Part of the event’s appeal is to experience different types of foods not available at local chain restaurants, which often attracts new trucks of which there were 19 this year.
Lindsey Park is from California where sirloin steak is prepared differently and inspired her to open California Tri Tip, specializing in thin-sliced sirloin for steak sandwiches and tacos.
Park quit her airport job to open the truck in Independence, Ky.
“We’d heard this was one of the best events in Ohio and wanted to be part of it,” she said.
Kathy Nuss opened Cousins Maine Lobster only a few months ago. The truck is franchised from a group that got its start on the series “Shark Tank.”
It is already paying for itself as its line was the longest, keeping the truck busy for most of the event.
“It has been a real whirlwind, but I love it,” said Nuss, who still does her daytime job as an emergency room nurse at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
Fred and Linda Fullerton of St. Paris didn’t mind the wait to get the lobster bisque, having enjoyed it in places like New Orleans, nor did Anthony Bess of Springfield.
“It was worth waiting for 45 minutes,” Bess said.
Mom and daughter Miriam Smith and Amanda Smith of Springfield wondered why they’d waited years to come to the competition, especially Amanda who just moved back here.
The Smiths are already making plans for next year, hoping to bring lawn chairs and an awning or tent to make it a day.
“It’s a nice thing for Springfield, for people to come to the park to enjoy each other’s company,” Miriam Smith said.
The competitions have raised more than $100,000 for Springfield Rotary, for charitable causes including support to the African nation of Lesotho and programs with for local people with disabilities including the recent dream soccer camp and upcoming children’s Christmas party.