By Laura Latzko | The Arizona Republic
Greasy roach coaches have gone by the wayside as trendy food trucks have emerged and grown in popularity. This weekend in Scottsdale, dozens of food trucks will gather in one place so that hungry consumers can sample a variety of innovative creations.
During the fifth annual Street Eats Food Truck Festival on Jan. 30 and 31 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, guests can choose from 65 trucks offering tasty and creative foods. Options include barbecue, seafood, Cajun, pizza, ice cream, fry bread, fruit kebabs, sate and grilled cheese.
Most of the trucks are based in the Valley, and a handful come from out of state. Each truck will offer $2 sample-size portions so customers can try lots of choices. VIP tickets include admission, six beverages, access to a VIP lounge and private bathrooms and four $2 tokens.
In between bites, guests can take part in “dirty donut” or pie-eating contests, see cooking demonstrations by local chefs and watch street performers and Superhero Stunt Team BMX riders.
A kids zone will keep young festivalgoers busy with inflatable slides, a bounce house and rides. For adults, top-chef margaritas, beer, wine and mixed cocktails will be available. Two stages will have entertainment on both days.
On one stage, audiences will hear acoustic and soft-rock sets from local bands such as the Random Gingers, I Am Jones, Pick and Holler, d’Averill & Derek and the Haymarket Squares. A second stage will present youngsters from the School of Rock and Alice’s Cooper’s Solid Rock foundation.
For many of the food-truck owners, the festival is one of the largest and most profitable events of the year.
Shaun Northup, Salt River Fields’ director of ticketing and special events, expects more than 30,000 people for both days. He said the event started with 25 food trucks and 8,000 customers in its first year.
During the festival, staff inside the food trucks have to be ready for lines of 20 people or more. Mustache Pretzels owner Greg Golden said he rolled almost 1,000 pretzels a day at last year’s event.
Golden said that for people planning weddings or corporate events, the festival can be a great way to try a variety of venders in one place. And truck owners and their employees get to interact with customers and fellow truck operators.
Northup said socializing while waiting in line has become a big component of the festival’s atmosphere.
“You’re not going to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. You are going to be part of the event. You are standing in line. You are meeting people. You are talking. You are interacting with your community,” Northup said.
Each food truck adds its own vibe to the event.
Hot Mess Buns owner Jennifer MacPherson said she promotes a “grunge meets retro meets traditional” feel in her products and truck design.
The food-truck owners come from all sorts of backgrounds.
Golden started his truck in March 2014 after working as a forensic accountant.
“When I was an accountant or an auditor, nobody was ever happy to see me coming. I almost never had any good news for anyone, and that can wear on you,” Golden said. “Now, I’m the pretzel guy.”
Before opening his food truck, Golden looked up recipes while traveling for work during the week and tried them out on the weekends.
“Anybody who lived in the same apartment complex as me, for a year or so leading up to the business opening, got to sample a lot of mediocre pretzels until we figured it out,” Golden said.
Golden grew up in the Philadelphia area, where pretzels are popular.
“I was a pretty picky eater as a kid, so I ate a particularly high portion of pretzels,” Golden said.
MacPherson opened family-run Hot Mess Buns three months ago after working in marketing, public relations and insurance sales. She wanted a different type of work environment.
“I have an entrepreneurial background, but I need to have fun,” MacPherson said. “I noticed that anything where there’s food trucks, people are happy and are having fun.”
A friend with a family recipe for cinnamon buns inspired the idea for the Valley’s only cinnamon-bun truck. MacPherson said a food truck is the right platform for selling the treats.
“That’s what’s so great about the food-truck industry. It really allows people to get something out there that might be more difficult to do in your traditional restaurant,” MacPherson said.
Street Eats Food Truck Festival
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 30-31.
Where: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 7555 N. Pima Road, Salt River Reservation.
Admission: $12, free for age 12 and younger. Food-truck tokens are $2 each. Children’s rides cost $1-$3 each. $50 VIP admission includes beverages, tokens and other perks.