What’s the appeal of a food truck rodeo or rally? When food trucks gather en mass, it’s really more of a street festival – a mobile food court with artisanal foods ranging from noodle bowls, cannolis, and mac and cheese. The idea of eating from a food truck caravan rather than at a brick-and-mortar restaurant gives an urban edge to the foodie experience, said Anne-Marie Aigner, executive producer of Food Truck Festivals of America, which recently expanded from its regional New England focus. And these meals on wheels have become the purveyor of entrepreneurial chefs, who are happy to gather for these large-scale food cart gatherings, which expand their loyal audiences even more, said Aigner. Aigner talked to Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about the logistics of putting on a dozen food festivals a year in locations ranging from the Arnold Arboretum to Albuquerque.
“It’s tough to produce a food truck festival in three feet of snow, so late last summer, we decided to chase the sun in the off-season and expand to warm weather destinations. We wanted to do spring training but were worried that it was too close to Tampa, which has one of the largest food truck festivals in the country. But it was clear that combining two trendy passions, baseball and food trucks, would be a hit. The Saturday, March 21 festival in Fort Meyers will be located in a large grassy area right outside the Red Sox ball park and feature 20 of the regions most popular food trucks serving Cuban sandwiches, ice cream, barbecue and more. After three years of creating food truck festivals throughout New England, my marketing partner, Janet Prensky and I think we know the formula. Typically we try to bring our food truck festivals to locations like Worcester where people don’t already have a density of food trucks; work with the vendors to keep prices low, around $4-$5 per menu item; and keep lines moving. And beer gardens. Guests want to have a drink while they are grazing, although this does complicate our venue requirements, because it requires a liquor license in compliance with state and local ordinances. For many festivals, we need about 50 thousand square feet to accommodate all the trucks, tables and chairs, and the queues of people. I started this food truck venture three years ago as an experiment and if you told me then that I would still be doing it today, I would have laughed. Today we have a database of over 450 trucks in New England and also act as a clearinghouse to match up food trucks with private events like weddings, block parties, and office luncheons. What’s my favorite food truck? I have many favorites but I do love the Whoopie Pie Wagon – it has red velvet, chocolate chip, and even gluten free whoopies, but unfortunately you can’t make a meal out of a whoopee pie.”