‘Festival Weekend’ part two: Tastemaking at the Spring Food Truck Festival

[This article is part of the ‘Festival Weekend’ Double Feature, which explores a series of large scale events that are intended to drive traffic to downtown Chambersburg and the organizations behind them. Part one focuses on Saturday’s Fandom Fest. Part two covers Sunday’s Spring Food Truck Festival.]

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Main Street was packed with people last Sunday for the Spring Food Truck Festival. The event featured more than 50 food vendors comprised of a mix of food trucks, food tents and local restaurants like Jordyn’s Caffe (109 S. Main St.) and Fox’s Pizza Den (120 S. Main St.).

Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., estimated that approximately 12,000 attendees shuffled up and down Main Street over the course of the five-hour event.

He said that pairing the Spring Food Truck Festival with the other events going on that weekend – Earth Day, Fandom Fest, the Boys and Girls Club 5K and Swing into Spring – helped draw crowds to all of the events while distributing the labor across multiple organizations.

“I think it helped spread the bandwidth out,” said Thrush. “I think the ultimate goal, collectively, that our business owners deserve is having a spring weekend that has multiple things going on at the same time. It’s a good start.”

While Sam Thrush and Downtown Chambersburg Inc. are responsible for the Spring Food Truck Festival, events like Saturday’s Fandom Fest are under the purview of Jennifer Davis with the Downtown Business Council. But the organizations aren’t territorial because what’s good for downtown is good for everyone.

“I think partnerships are a great way to boost the downtown,” said Davis, Downtown Business Council coordinator. “It’s the best way to create a cohesive environment. The town doesn’t necessarily know that we’re from different organizations, but we just come together to put on something because it’s all community minded.”

Thrush agreed, saying, “We both have different responsibilities, but there are a lot of times where we can collaborate on stuff.”

Swing into Spring is a perfect example of this melding of resources and passions. Swing into Spring is an event that is officially hosted by the Downtown Business Council to coincide with the Spring Food Truck Festival. It is co-sponsored by Samantha Ecke of Milk Bath (23 N. Main St.), and Sam Thrush helped secure vendors for it. The concept is to position retail vendors within the gaps between the food trucks.

“When you’re standing and waiting, it’s a great opportunity for vendors to get this audience that’s waiting for delicious food,” said Davis.

She added: “It fills it up for a wonderful, robust-looking festival, and it’s a great opportunity for everybody.”

Wes Gingrich has been the owner and operator of Peculiar Pizza, one of the 50-plus food trucks at the event, since March of 2022.

“What we’re doing is we’re trying to think outside of the box on different types of pizzas,” he said in an interview behind his truck as the event was winding down. Although, he added that they keep the menu simpler for high-pressure situations like this one. “For the sake of speed and service, we’re just offering a couple of varieties.”

“We’ll do any of the local festivals,” he said. In between those, Gingrich and Peculiar Pizza can be found at TBC Brewing Company (38 N. Third St.) where “we’re coming up with new ideas every week we can and kind of go against the traditional side. If it can be good in the oven, we go for it.” Although, they make a lot of traditional pies as well.

He said that events like these are important for food truck operators, and he is happy to see Chambersburg embrace food truck culture.

“I love it,” said Gingrich. “I’m born and raised in Chambersburg. I love the town. I love to be a part of the community. The food truck community is very special. It’s like a tight-knit family. It brings a lot of awareness to our community and this town.”

Gingrich particularly praised Sam Thrush’s efforts with Downtown Chambersburg Inc.

“He does a phenomenal job with hosting these events,” he said. “It’s just great to see such an active community.”

And he looks forward to seeing the community grow.

“Everywhere is looking for trucks,” he said. “It’s the new thing.” Adding: “It’s nice that they’re so popular, and God forbid a COVID situation happens again, but there’s no indoor seating that you have to worry about. You can still operate in a lot of cases.”

Michael Madigan of Vagabond Taco Truck made the journey to the Spring Food Truck Festival from Pittsburgh. He said that he has been food trucking for seven years now, and he travels the entire mid-Atlantic region serving West coast-inspired Mexican fare.

Madigan learned about the event from The Cupcake Gypsy, one of the other food truck operators at the event.

“She told me all about it and told me I couldn’t miss it,” he said.

For Madigan, the day had been a success, and he hopes to participate again in the future. He did, however, raise two concerns.

“The thing is,” he said, “with the amount of vendors, if you keep increasing it every year, then in a few years, you won’t have anybody. You’ve gotta’ find the sweet spot.”

He added: “The bigger events, they draw huge crowds, which is great for everybody – but what would have happened if it had rained today?”

The weather is a fair concern – especially for vendors who are traveling substantial distances. After all, Fandom Fest was affected by the rain despite shifting the schedule two hours earlier to avoid it.

With the Spring Food Truck Festival brought to a successful conclusion, Sam Thrush has turned his attention to the rest of the summer.

“First Fridays have started,” he said. “They will be in full force Friday night, May 5. The next big street festival where there’s actually a road closure would be Old Market Day, which is the third Saturday in July.”

And he is confident that weekend-long multi-event festivals spread throughout downtown will continue to drive crowds to Main Street.

“It’s a good jumping off point for the future,” he said. “Keep on adding to Fandom, keep on adding to the 5K, keep on adding to Earth Day. I think there’s a bright future with having Saturday and Sundays for people here in our downtown.”

One thought on “‘Festival Weekend’ part two: Tastemaking at the Spring Food Truck Festival

Leave a Reply