food trucks

This year's festival will feature cultural dishes, as well as vegetarian and vegan options.

This Saturday, many will stroll through a grassy hillside, surrounded by an assortment of sweet smells and savory tastes. One may find themselves enjoying tasty chicken wings from Chubbee Monkee or a scrumptious waffle from Waffle Yum. From barbecue to burgers and ice cream to doughnuts, Harrisonburg’s annual Food Truck Fest will have options of different cultural dishes, such as Korean and Mexican cuisines, vegetarian and vegan food and American classics.

The event will be held Saturday on Sunny Slope Farm from noon to 6 p.m. There will be live music performances by local artists Mike Davis, Who Shot John and The Hackens Boys. Craft vendors including Creative Designs LLC, RW Woodworking and Design and Overlook Farms Herbal Remedies will also be showcasing their products.

The Food Truck Fest fundraiser is held by the nonprofit organization Open Doors, which provides support and shelter to the homeless in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County November through April. The event is also sponsored by many local businesses, which allows all ticket proceeds from the festival to go directly to Open Doors.

“We’re really excited that it’s become such a well-known event that people look forward to every year,” Rachel Howdyshell, executive director of Open Doors, said. “That means a lot to us. I think the event as a whole is very successful because the goal, of course, is to raise money for Open Doors. We have been able to raise over $30,000 every year for the organization.”

The festival is mostly staffed by volunteers to help set up the equipment, organize the space and provide general assistance to the crowd. Some food truck vendors attend the event from local Harrisonburg locations like Strite’s Donuts and Paella Perfecta, while others travel from surrounding towns like Hops Kitchen in Waynesboro, Virginia and Old School Burgers from Weyers Cave, Virginia.

“We put the word out to the public that we are in need of food trucks and then we get them signed up,” Howdyshell said. “You know, just everything that goes into planning an event in terms of making sure we’re ready for all the people that will come.”

Each food truck must be prepared for the event, rain or shine. First-time Food Truck Fest participant, Stephanie Dixon, owner of Sweet Baby Cheeses, explains what it takes to get ready for a festival and gives a sneak peek of what she’ll be serving.

“First, I advertise on Facebook,” Dixon said. “Then, ask my friends to also help push that event for me. Of course there’s shopping that I have to do for the food and planning for that. My niche is going to be heavy vegan and vegetarian options and just planning a menu around that. I will also have something for the meat eaters as well.”

For some vendors, this year will be their fourth appearance at the festival. Derek Smiley, owner of Smiley’s Ice Cream, has been in the business since 2001 and recently opened a full shop in Mount Crawford, Virginia.

“I think that the trend is that it’s one thing to have a food truck and that’s great and everything,” Smiley said. “But I think the ultimate goal is to become popular enough that you can justify getting a brick and mortar so that you can really pick and choose what you do on the road. I think this festival gives a chance for people to, of course, try different stuff, but then also for food trucks to hopefully gain more popularity.”

With many appetizing options to choose from, Food Truck Fest is a community favorite for food lovers. Whether it’s stopping at all the trucks for a little taste of everything or relaxing at a picnic table with friends and family, this event hopes to leave guests wanting more of the endless flavors offered, all while supporting a good cause.

“I’m a people person and I’ve always been in food service so that’s my big thing is just interacting with people,” Dixon said. “I’m just excited to be out in the community and meet new people and have fun while doing it. I think it’s going to be a good turnout and it’s good to give back to the community in that way, too.” 

Contact Traci Rasdorf at rasdortl@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.

Traci Rasdorf is a Culture Editor at The Breeze from Alexandria, Virginia. She’s a junior media arts and design major with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.