By Andrew Carr | The Sentinel
HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP – Food, fireworks and fun were on the menu for the Hampden Township Fun Food Fest Sunday.
The event, which ran from 5 to 10 p.m., and culminated in a fireworks display, saw area food trucks feed customers with their unique offerings, as well as a show by the Greater Harrisburg Concert Band.
Mike Erno, director of parks and recreation for Hampden Township, said the event began the prior year when the township decided to “piggy-back” on the Navy Depot’s Freedom Festival. This year, the township purchased the fireworks through sponsorships to the event, he said.
Erno said the fact that the event had to be rescheduled one day due to weather didn’t have a negative effect on the number of people he expected to attend.
For some of the food truck owners, this event comes at the beginning of their journey as purveyors of tasty treats.
Lewis Skinner, aka Mr. Sno Cone, said he and his wife began the business about 10 weeks prior, offering shaved ice to which customers can then add their own flavors in the flavor bar. The couple started the business after they retired.
“I had always wanted to do this,” he said. “We are both retired and we enjoy watching the kids … they see us coming and it is a big deal. You can only watch so many soap operas during the day and this gives us something to do, it really does. You have to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and this is what we do. I love my job; we have the coolest and sweetest job on earth.”
Skinner said when he was growing up in the Pittsburgh area, there was “this old guy pushing a cart, it had the umbrella on it, a block of ice and an old ice shaver,” he said.
Every time he would go into town with his mother, he would get a snow cone from the vendor. He decided he wanted to make memories like that for others.
He said he began researching shaved ice and found Snowie Shaved Ice in Salt Lake City, which franchises out buildings, kiosks, carts and buses.
“My wife said ‘If we are going to do this, honey, we are going to get the bus,’” Skinner said.
Also at the festival, Janail Psichogios, whose husband, Pete, owns and operates All Greek To You, said her husband loves to cook and always had the dream of operating his own food truck.
The business, which offers Greek food such as gyros, pasticho, chicken kabobs and spanakopita, has been in operation just about two months, she said.
She said the truck follows the food truck festival circuit in the Midstate, as well as lunches and dinners in specific locations in Harrisburg.
For some, a food truck is another way to get their products into the hands of the consumer.
Isaac Edmondson of the York City Pretzel Company, which offers traditional Bavarian style soft pretzels, said while the company has two brick-and-mortar locations in York and Intercourse, Pennsylvania, “this is just another way for us to get our product out there and take it to where people want it.”
Robert Anderson of the Cumberland Valley Band Boosters said their truck spends much of the summer going to local events to raise money for the CV band.
“We do this at all of the home football games, so we do it in the fall all the time for every home football game, and we spend the summers going to some local events,” he said.
For these vehicles to operate, the owners said they are subject to the same rules and regulations as any restaurant. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said the retail food program covers all proprietors who serve or sell food/drink directly to the public “regardless of location.” Retailers may include facilities, such as restaurants, caterers, mobile units, grocery stores, Internet sales of foods, fair concessionaires and retail bakeries, as well as any facility selling directly to the consumer.
“There is just as much scrutiny as there is in the restaurant business,” Edmondson said. “We have to have the same ServSafe regulations like any other restaurant.”
“It is just a restaurant on wheels,” Psichogios said.
The trucks are also subject to inspection by the state Department of Agriculture and health inspectors, as well as special solicitor license for specific locations in which they are operating.
“Different townships have different permits and requirements,” Psichogios said.
Skinner said solicitor permits generally cost around $100, depending on the township or locations.