Food Truck Fest at Santa Anita Draws Massive Crowd

By Matt Burch | Arcadia Patch

Thousands of local residents packed the infield at Santa Anita Park Saturday for the first Food Truck Festival in the race track’s storied history.

Long lines were the norm as attendees waited, in most cases patiently, to try the eats at the more than 20 local gourmet food trucks who participated in Saturday’s event.

Arcadia native Judy Hwee and several of her pals came out just for the food trucks. In fact, Hwee, despite living in the Arcadia area for over 30 years, had never been to the historic park. Hwee said she waited upwards of an hour in line for the food she munched on. And that seemed the norm on yet another unseasonably warm day in Southern California.

Growing annoyed by the long line as she waited to try a sampling from Barbie’s Q food truck, Alhambra resident Jill Taylor admitted that in combining horse racing with food trucks, Santa Anita had a “great concept, but bad execution.”

“At least it’s a nice day,” Taylor’s cousin Samantha Vorhees chimed in. Vorhees and Taylor had been at the festival for more than an hour and still had not been able to taste any of the food due to the lines that seemed to stretch into infinity at just about every food truck that participated in Saturday’s event.

John Niedzwiedz, promotions manager at Santa Anita Park, pegged the infield crowd there just for the food trucks at around 10,000, though he admitted that was an aggressive estimate. Some frustrated foodies, angry at the long wait times, were issued refunds, Niedzwiedz admitted. Many of the food trucks ran low on food, and one, Barbie’s Q, even ran out completely and had to shut down its truck at around 2 p.m.

Based on the very inexact science of line sizes, it appeared that the most popular trucks were the Grilled Cheese Truck and the Don Chow Tacos Truck. One attendee who spoke to Patch said her husband waited more than 90 minutes for a grilled cheese he could have cooked at home in probably 90 seconds.

But despite the long lines, the large turnout and enthusiasm for the event bodes well for more food truck festivals in Santa Anita’s future. In an interview with Patch before Saturday’s event, Chris Quinn, the director of sales at Santa Anita, said the race track was already looking at an early April date to hold another food truck related event.

The Food Truck Festival at Santa Anita Park coincided with Sunshine Millions, one of Santa Anita’s biggest race days of the season in which horses from California and Florida race to determine the top state. It offered purses topping out at $1.8 million, which could buy quite a few tacos at Don Chow. Just be prepared for a long wait.