Thousands flock to Springfield Rotary Food Truck Competition

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Breakfast time still lingered as the crowds began forming in Veterans Park Saturday morning just before 11 a.m., the official opening time for the seventh annual Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck Competition.

It proved the hunger was still there for the event two years after its last installment, a little later than its usual mid-August slot, but still welcome with 28 food trucks offering a variety of everything from good old American mac and cheese to Peruvian specialties.

Daren Johnson of Springfield was one of those early birds. A veteran of all six previous events, he brought friend Andy Sneary of St. Paris for his first time.

Sneary had just finished a shift at Horner Industrial and was using the event as a middle ground before moving furniture for the rest of his Saturday.

“It’s my happy medium,” he said, smiling.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Johnson was excited for the event’s return, eager to try different foods and his first stop was Biscuit Boss, a first-time attendee specializing in brunch foods.

Northeastern High School graduate Casey Stevens just opened the truck last spring with husband Mark, inspired to do what she loved after losing her job during the pandemic. She’d attended the food competitions and is friends with other food truck owners and it was a natural fit.

“We knew how much fun this is and I know so many people. We’re booked up through the end of the year and are loving doing this,” said Stevens, who is based in Plain City.

The event officially opened with a moment of silence and the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Heads bowed and hats were removed toward the American flag.

Springfield Police officers patrolled the event and several Springfield Fire Rescue members including John Neuhardt, Nick Woolever and Lance Cartmell came over from the nearby station to grab food and were glad to be acknowledged by attendees and the anthem.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” said Cartmell. “We all got into this from a desire to help the community and it’s great to receive that appreciation.

Neuhardt and Wooliver said it was good time to come together as a community on a day like this and a positive way showing our way of life didn’t stop after those attacks.

A potential conflict from people enjoying the competition was the Ohio State-Oregon football game at noon. Rotarians countered the choice by bringing in a Jumbotron screen on the stage to show the game live.

Several people set up lawn chairs and tents to enjoy food and football. Chris Deel confessed if he had to choose, he’d have come to the competition as he hasn’t missed one. Now instead of leaving his seat to go to the kitchen, he’d just turn back to a food truck along with fellow Buckeye fans Matty Tully and Nathan Terzo.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

For others, the Food Truck Competition is like a game, setting a strategy, navigating crowds and scoring their food choices. Stephanie Jamison and Shane Boles of Springfield attended each previous competition, with Jamison recalling being pregnant with her now 7-year-old son during the first. Their goal was to try to sample all of the ethnic foods.

“It’s the stuff you can’t get and this is the opportunity to get them,” Jamison said while waiting on her order from Nazca Peruvian Eats, making its first appearance at the competition.

The Springfield Museum of Art offered free admission and a place for attendees to eat outdoors and enjoy their offerings.

Proceeds from the event go toward several Springfield Rotary Club charitable causes and events, including locally for children with disabilities. The turnout through midday was exactly what event marketing chair Eddie Bell was hoping for.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

“We love it, happy with the turnout,” Bell said. “We’ve had a much bigger crowd than at noon at other events and there’s all these OSU shirts, the weather’s been great. This is what it’s about.”

One lady carrying armfuls of different foods may have summed it up best, “Nobody’s cooking tonight!”

Competition results are available at the competition website.

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