"People are getting a chance to see all their favorites in town they love and try new ones. I always say, 'Wear elastic waistbands.'"
PANAMA CITY BEACH — With more than 20 food trucks rolling into Aaron Bessant Park for Saturday's Panama City Beach Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival, be prepared to roll out by the time it's over.
"People are getting a chance to see all their favorites in town they love and try new ones," said Food Truck Festivals of America spokeswoman Janet Prensky. "Everybody can break up and stand in four lines, and not just in one, and all meet back at the blanket for the feast. I always say, 'Wear elastic waistbands.'"
Fill up from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday on food truck menus that will include everything from bacon-wrapped hot dogs and fried wings with waffles to tacos, mac and cheese, prime rib, wood-fired pizza, poke bowls and beignets. More than 50 craft beers will be available to wash it all down.
"Pack in several meals," Prensky said. "That is our goal — keep eating. It's a day of eating and drinking. Know when you step into it which trucks you want to hit and which items."
Admission is $5 in advance online (foodtruckfestivalsofamerica.com) or $10 at the gate to enter the park. First responders — police officers, firefighters and EMTs — receive free admission with valid ID, and ages 12 and younger are free. Once inside the park, guests can then purchase items from 23 food trucks between noon and 5 p.m. — and even take some to-go.
VIP tickets ($25 in advance online or $30 at the gate), allow guests to get in at 11 a.m. before the lines start and get unlimited water, $1 off any craft beer and a free dessert from the VIP truck, Lita's Treats. The Columbia, S.C., truck will be offering salted caramel, strawberry, chocolate, red velvet and banana pudding cupcakes.
The Panama City Beach Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival is partnering with Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy and Visit Panama City Beach for the first-time event. Food Truck Festivals of America, a Boston-based company, primarily pulls from a two-hour driving radius within each host city, searching for the area's best food trucks to fuel the food truck frenzy.
Local food trucks include Back Beach BBQ, Dovalina's Wood Fired Pizza, HaolePino Hawaiian-Filipino Island Cuisine, Pirate Bay Mobile, Sandbar Seafood & BBQ Joint, Temperley's British Eatery, The Prime Rib Guy, and Wrap It Up.
HaolePino will be serving lumpia, kalua pork plates and nachos, adobo and Loco Moco — a 1/3-pound grilled beef patty with mushrooms, onions and gravy furikake mix. Pirate Bay will feature Slap Ya Grand Mama Gumbo, chili, shrimp po boys, black & blue sliders and chili cheese potato skins. The Sandbar is bringing fish tacos with a choice of fresh snapper, grouper or tuna; seafood gumbo; and bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp.
Temperley's will feature six different burgers, Blackbeard's BLT with Yellow fin Tuna as a sandwich or salad, cod and chips, and pasties. The Prime Rib Guy is bringing even more beef with plates of prime rib with a baked potato, prime rib etouffee, and prime rib over cheese grits. For something lighter, Wrap it Up will serve veggie wraps and two types of chicken wraps.
Smokin' on Wheels will be serving BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, ribs and chicken skewers on a stick. To ensure variety, Back Porch BBQ and Richardson's BBQ will be doing desserts, such as funnel cakes and ice cream, instead of barbecue.
Pensacola food trucks will include Joe's Caribe with jerk chicken, Jibarito Sliders and empanadas, as well as 3-D Eats and Tea with pecan-smoked pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, fries and breaded pork tenderloin strips.
But wait, there's more.
DragonCupBop Korean Food Truck serves Korean Style BBQ pork, chicken and dumplings, and tofu with kimchi; and Gekko Sushi Hibachi Truck has hibachi bowls and poke bowls.
The Wacked Out Weiner from Foley, Ala., features Nathan's dogs, sausage dogs and loaded nachos. Soul Heaven Cafe & Catering will serve chicken wings in five flavors, as well as Southern fried wings with homemade waffles.
When it comes to mac and cheese, Prensky said, "Everybody wants it." She also added, "Bacon always has a really long line."
There will be both at Saturday's festival.
The Tally Mac Shack from Tallahassee will serve five different macaroni and cheese dishes, from traditional to Coco Loco vegetarian to macaroni with chicken and the Deep's Bacon in the Sun — infused with Deep Brewery's Reef Dweller with some sharp cheddar and topped off with crispy bacon. Bacon Express of Fort Walton Beach is serving bacon-wrapped hot dogs; bacon grilled cheese sandwiches; peanut butter, honey bacon grilled sandwiches; and the Bacon Bomb — whole milk mozzarella cheese in a flaky biscuit bomb wrapped in apple wood-smoked bacon, and then deep fried.
Country Cajun continues Mardi Gras favorites after Fat Tuesday with a decadent mix of boudin balls, chicken and sausage gumbo, spicy hash cheeseburger, crawfish etouffee, crawfish patties, King Cake on a stick (with a special prize inside) and cherry beignets.
Frios of the Emerald Coast features gourmet frozen ice pops.
It's all about the food, but an artisan village with more than 20 local artists, face painting, and lawn games can get you up and working off those calories — or just capture all the gluttony at the selfie station. Then sit back and enjoy the music.
"Folks will have music through radio partners and bringing live music as well, cornhole and things like that and an artisan village," Prensky said. "Come spend the day with us."
The artisan village will include a variety of handmade creations from jewelry to hand-sewn clothing to organic beauty products from vendors such as Happy Yogi Shop, BleuRoo Stitchery, Big Wave Dave’s Outfitters LLC, Today We Build, AvaRoo, Uriel's Uniquities, Palmer Williams Group, Selenite Gypsy and Heavenly Light Creations.
And, back to bacon — Chocolate Freaking Bacon will be selling homemade bacon chocolate bars.
Craft beer selections will be available from Ace Cider, Funky Buddha, Props Brewing, Pensacola Bay Brewing, Grayton Brewing, Goose Island Brewing, Big Top Brewing, Oyster City Brewing, Proof Brewing, 3 Daughters Brewing, Unita Brewing, Kona Brewing, Founders Brewing, Fairhope Brewing, Gulf Coast Brewing, Victory Brewing, Woodchuck Cider, and Swamphead Brewing.
The idea for Food Truck Festivals was born in 2011 after a client at Prensky's Aigner/Prensky Marketing Group wanted something more than a music or art festival.
"Food trucks didn't exist on the East Coast, but they were hot in Los Angeles and heading east," said Prensky, whose company was able to round up eight trucks in Plymouth, Mass., for the first festival. "We estimated for 1,000, and 5,000 people showed up. We needed more cheese for the grilled cheese truck, more bread. In 2012, we tried it in Boston and 10,000 people showed up."
Everyone realized "this is fun and exciting," she added.
Food Truck Festivals of New England became Food Truck Festivals of America, so they could take the festivals on the road year-round instead of being stuck in the snow during New England's winter.
"We started to chase the sun," Prensky said. "There were two festival in 2012, and now 14 throughout the country with Panama City Beach being the big launch festival this year. It's a trend (that's) here to stay; people love them. They have such a casual nature. Step up to the window; see the chef in action. You don't have to wait for the hostess to seat you, and it's a great way for small business owners to branch into the food business. Now a lot have brick and mortar locations. We had eight food trucks in 2011 and now 3,500 trucks in 2018."