What the Food Trucks: festival floods Penn Park amid weekend sunshine

John Joyce
  • As many as 40 food trucks and more than 30 vendors surrounded Penn Park.
  • New this year was a community corner this year, full of community organizations and non-profits.

While one vendor’s estimate of the turnout at half a million might have been doled out with a touch of enthusiasm-infused sarcasm, Sunday’s “What the Food Trucks” festival in Penn Park could not have been better attended, organizers said.

As many as 40 food trucks and more than 30 vendors surrounded the park on a day when sunshine, a cool breeze and a whole community blended together seamlessly.

Mobile restaurateurs offered up tastes of all kinds of grub, some with a twist of this or a new take on that, to satisfy every palate and fill each plate with something unforgettable. But the chief ingredient Sunday — organic, to be sure — was the people.

Dexter Guo, 2, right, shares a bite of his ice cream with his mother, Stacey Yaeger, during What the Food Trucks at Penn Park in York City, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

Folks from as far away as Maryland and New Jersey made the drive to York, while others from as nearby as Hershey and Harrisburg jaunted down, to spend their afternoon and hard-earned money in one of the city's oldest parks.

"We really came out here to show — this is our third year in Penn Park — that if you bring it, the people will come. They will come to this community," organizer Kate Harmon said.

Harmon, representing Crocodile Dog Marketing, said her group took over the food truck festival a year ago, after the previous organization behind the event opted out.

"It used to be (put on by) Foodstruck, but last year they decided it was going to be their last year. They had done four," Harmon said.

Crocodile Dog Marketing, which helps organize several festivals in York City each year including Taste of PA, Yorktoberfest and Hibrewnation, decided to bring the focus back to the community.

Harmon said her group added a community corner this year, full of community organizations and non-profits. And all of them were asked to bring an interactivity for kids.

"And that way, even if the kids around here can’t come out and buy the food, they can come out and play for free. We also had the splash pad turned on for all the kids so they could play," she said.

Some of the residents around the park might not be able to afford some of the food items, wine and beer being sold at the festival, which has been a criticism of the event in the past.

"The past years have been all about the food and the beer, but when we took it over we really wanted to give back to the community, so any extra money we make going forward is going to go back into projects directly effecting the neighbors around Penn Park," Harmon said.

There is no particular project in mind yet, and Harmon said community input will be solicited before deciding to go forward with anything the residents in the community might not want.

"We don’t want to just build something here for them, we want to have their input. Or if there some project going on here we can help support. So we’re going to see where we are at the end of this and then make plans," she said.

The food: Between the live music, the clothing and accessories vendors, the teens playing basketball and the kids climbing all over the jungle gym at the center of Penn Park, the real draw Sunday was, of course, the food trucks.

While there were far too many too describe each in detail, festival-goers definitely staked out their favorites before retiring to picnic blankets, or just grabbing some grass in the abundant shade offered by the park's many large trees.

"We were here last year," Sherry Lipka said. She and her husband Paul Lipka made the trip down from Harrisburg for Sunday's festival.

Paul's favorite was the Cajun gumbo, of which he and Sherry were passing back and forth a bowl as they sat on a blanket in the middle of the park.

They said the reason for their return a second year in a row was a combination of the variety of food and the beauty of Penn Park.

"This is such a nice area," Sherry said. "It's definitely worth coming out to."

"And family-friendly," Paul added.

Steve Foose, who joined the Lipkas on a corner of their blanket, said he came down with them. Foose, from Hershey, neglected however to think his 5-year-old Boston terrier, Fred, would have been welcome.

"I see everybody with their dog out here," he said. "We're bringing our dogs next year."

For more information on upcoming festivals, be sure to got to www.crocodilemarketing.com.

— Reach John Joyce atjjoyce2@yorkdispathc.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD