James Rumsey Express Food Truck

Food Truck Fever

The Growing Food Truck Trend Delivers Convenience and a World of New Flavors. 

By Kate Rader

Like students around the country, children at Maugansville Elementary School spent most of their time interacting through a computer screen during the pandemic. Leah Putterman knew the school’s students and teachers missed being able to interact in person. And as president of the school’s PTO, she understood how important the early years are to socialization; elementary school is where many kids and their families form enduring relationships that last for years to come. “During Covid, it’s been so hard for kids to interact personally, and for families to meet and just have fun,” she says.

Inspired by the appearance of food trucks at Maugansville Little League games, she sent out a call to see if she could arrange for a food truck to come to the elementary school for an evening of outside fun. Scott Haupt, the owner of Bella’s Bites, a Hagerstown-area food truck, jumped on board and with the school’s blessing, students and their families were invited to grab a bite to eat and get to know one another.

Leah and Scott were both pleasantly surprised when 75 people showed up at the first event in December, 2021. For an hour and a half, Bella’s Bites served up their signature pretzel bites, crab dip, Sammis, and smothered Overloads while students played on equipment provided by the physical education department. Parents chatted in a socially-distanced environment where their kids could feel free to be themselves. 

The enthusiastic response spurred Leah to make “Food Truck Night” a monthly occurrence. By March, the event had quickly grown to include crowds of as many as 300 people from the school and surrounding community; five more food trucks featuring family-friendly fare like barbecue, hot dogs, and pizza; and desserts including funnel cake from Funnel N Around, which serves freshly made doughy delights in more than 15 flavor combinations.

 

Maugansville Elementary School Food Truck Night

Maugansville Elementary School plans monthly food truck nights to bring students, teachers, and parents together. Photo by Mark Youngblood.

Maugansville Elementary School food truck night

Maugansville Elementary School plans monthly food truck nights to bring students, teachers, and parents together. Photo by Mark Youngblood.

 “The kids enjoy being together in the evenings and the parents enjoy mingling and not having to cook,” Leah says. “It’s so heartwarming to see the kids acting like this.” She emphasizes how important the collaboration between the school, the PTO, and the food truck owners has been, and attributes the event’s success to the spirit of the community and the lure of good food. “The positive feedback has been amazing. Maugansville is such a small-knit community. You mention the word food to people—and they come.”

Food Truck Nights are planned at Maugansville Elementary through the end of the school year, on May 5 and June 2. Leah hopes to start the 2022 school year with a food truck back-to-school night. “It’s so great for the kids to see their teachers outside the school in a different light. The energy in the school the day of Food Truck Night is incredible—the kids are so ramped up. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing the kids are so excited.”

A ROLLING REVOLUTION

It seems like food trucks are popping up everywhere lately, serving food-on-the-go in every flavor imaginable: from American staples to ethnic fare; as breakfast, dinner, and dessert. More than 24,000 food trucks nationally are riding the wave of outdoor eating, which was unintentionally boosted by the closing of indoor restaurants during the pandemic. 

A self-proclaimed “pizza fanatic,” Lisa Miller of Hagerstown says she and her husband frequent Upper Stem Brewery (a Maryland-designated farm brewery that hosts a rotating menagerie of food trucks) on Friday evenings. She jokes, “I know what I’ll be eating for dinner on Friday nights based on which food truck will be here.” While she touts her favorite, Blues Pizza Truck, she acknowledges the perks of all types of mobile cuisine. “Food trucks offer convenience and good prices. During the pandemic, you couldn’t go anywhere else, and we just wanted to get out and eat some good food.”

The owner of Blues Pizza Truck, Patrick Maggi of Frederick opened his first food truck—Blues BBQ—in 2003 in a stationary location. “We started with crabs and switched to barbecue—we were a novelty then.” After opening a pizza shop in Damascus, he decided to add a pizza truck to the mix. Blues travels to wineries, breweries, and corporate events, feeding hungry customers at more than 150 events per year. 

Patrick’s emphasis is on unique flavor combinations and fresh ingredients, simply seasoned. “The fresher the better, in my opinion,” is the motto he uses, creating pizzas that win awards, like the Prosciutto Pear Pizza, a fusion of “heavenly gorgonzola, mozzarella, prosciutto, and pears topped with arugula, a balsamic reduction, and in between, nothin’ but love.” 

Blues Pizza Truck

Patrick Maggi uses his father’s family recipe for the crispy, chewy dough Blues Pizza Truck is known for.

Chris Sarber and his wife Donna also regularly park their Mexican street-style food truck, The 301, at Upper Stem Brewery to feed its patrons. They serve tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and chimichangas stuffed with homemade meats and veggies—all seasoned with Chris’s special spices—at breweries, festivals, weddings, and corporate events. “Food truck food just tastes better because it’s fresh,” he says and is always testing out new flavor combinations.

Food truck owners Donna Sarber and her husband Chris of The 301, serve Mexican street food like these freshly-made tacos topped with onion and cilantro.

Donna Sarber and her husband Chris of The 301, serve Mexican street food from their food truck. Photo by Kate Rader.

The 301, a food truck, serves Mexican street food

Donna Sarber and her husband Chris of The 301, serve Mexican street food like these freshly-made tacos topped with onion and cilantro. Photo by Kate Rader.

Taylor and Jessie Kinzer of Sharpsburg bought their food truck, Funnel N Around, from a couple who wanted to retire after 42 years of business. In 2019, Taylor found her grandmother’s funnel cake recipe and built a menu of flavorful combinations. For funnel cake purists, Taylor says they offer the classics like powdered sugar and cinnamon. But their specialties, like Strawberries & Cream (fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and strawberry syrup) and Boston Cream (vanilla pudding and chocolate syrup) take the cake. 

The timing was just right she felt, of launching their business at the start of a pandemic. Their red and white striped trailer with flashing lights became a welcome sight. “People said it was like we were bringing some normalcy to the area. It was great to see the smiles on their faces when they realized we were selling funnel cakes in the parking lot!”

Now, Taylor says, Funnel N Around is booked almost every Wednesday and weekend, working over 100 events a year, including festivals, community events, weddings, showers, parties, and even the York State Fair. “My favorite thing about this is the joy it brings. We never have anybody walk away without a smile on their face.”

Funnel N Around has a full menu of funnel cake flavor combinations and rotating monthly specials.

Funnel N Around has a full menu of funnel cake flavor combinations and rotating monthly specials.

COOKING UP BUSINESS

As the new owner of Howard’s Art & Frames in Hagerstown, Sarah Kersting was looking for ways to attract new customers to her store. Inspired by the food trucks she’d seen at Hearty Pet, a nearby retailer, Sarah reached out through Facebook to see if a truck would be interested in parking outside her store, which faces the busy Dual Highway, one day a week. “Some people don’t realize what we offer. We have this big parking lot and I thought it could draw attention to the store and give a food truck a nice place to sit.”

Still Smokin’ BBQ of Williamsport was the first to respond, setting up at Howard’s to serve lunch. The day was so successful, Sarah now hosts a rotating roster of trucks every Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. Passionate about creating synergy with other small businesses, she makes it a priority to promote each truck on her store’s Facebook page and on the Washington County, Md. Food Truck Finder page, which has over 3,500 members. “I’m an advocate of supporting other small businesses. It’s somebody’s dream. And I want to support that as much as possible.”

Ryan Thomas, the brand manager at Hearty Pet, invites food trucks to set up during special events, like their anniversary bash. “It’s a great draw to the store,” he says. “People love to come in and shop and eat.” Hearty Pet is an online national retailer specializing in home delivery of pet food and supplies with a brick-and-mortar location in Hagerstown. The company works to create synergy with other small businesses and nonprofit organizations, like dog rescues. “At events, we usually have two food trucks and a beer vendor, and the rescue brings in pets for adoption.”

Ryan says that barbecue is probably the most popular fare with customers, but he’s a seafood fan, and the crab dip-smothered fries from Bella’s Bites are his favorite. Ryan also values the relationships he’s built with food truck owners. “Scott from Bella’s Bites displays a Hearty Pet sticker on his truck. The owner of Bentwood Smokers BBQ and Catering has sent me new barbecue sauces to try. We’re a small business, they’re a small business, we’re talking about each other. In a community like ours, it’s important to partner up with others.”

Scott agrees, noting that having a mobile business has been a great way to build community ties. Bella’s Bites—named after his oldest daughter—rolled out in 2017 after the Williamsport native graduated from culinary school in Pittsburgh. His goal is to “share good food with good people,” which he takes to heart, participating in festivals around the region in addition to events that support the community like Maugansville’s food truck night and the annual Easter drive-through Egg Hunt at Frederick Fairgrounds, which benefits the American Cancer Society. 

The James Rumsey Express

The James Rumsey Express provides an immersive educational experience and is run by students who plan, order, cook and serve food at events in the tri-state area. Photo by Social Connection Marketing.

Chef Stephen Brown, the ProStart high school culinary instructor at James Rumsey Technical School in Martinsburg believes so strongly in the transformative power of food that he applied for a grant from the West Virginia Department of Education to start a food truck program as part of his curriculum. The students learn entrepreneurship along with culinary skills, and help write the menu, order inventory, prep and cook food, and run the truck at community events. 

The truck’s cuisine rotates frequently. “One week, perogies and Polish food. Next week, Tex-Mex,” Stephen says. Since their health department approval in December of 2021, they’ve received dozens of inquiries asking them to work events, which gives them more opportunities to succeed. “The students learn to have determination, and how to make their customers happy—from the food they’re serving to the interactions with the people on the truck.” 

As the number of food trucks grows, Scott believes there’s plenty of room for everyone. “People want to try a variety of foods and flavors—Thai, desserts, Latin, Mexican, Italian, crab, smokers. I always try food from the other trucks. I love to eat, and food makes you happy. If there’s one thing we need nowadays, it’s happiness.”

 

TEMPT YOUR TASTEBUDS AT THE 2022 INTERSTATE FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL

Get ready to take a flavor trip around the world at the inaugural Interstate Food Truck Festival! Nosh on food and desserts from over 20 food trucks and enjoy local beer & wine. Come for the food, stay for the fun as there will be a sizzling lineup of live entertainment, general vendors, axe throwing, games, and a huge Kids Zone, all supporting the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League.

Tickets

Visit WiYNN.com for special advance discounted ticket offers and to order tickets.
Ticket prices: $9–$39.

General Admission and General Admission with unlimited beer and wine tickets are available. Food is not included with any ticket type and will be available for purchase inside the event. 

Personal pop-up tent fees are additional and do not include admission or pop-up tent. Tents are limited to 12′x12′ and must be placed in marked zone. Premier parking passes can be purchased for an additional fee and provide access to the paved entrance level parking lot. All others must park in lower fields. Must be 21 to drink alcohol. Kids 12 & under get in FREE. All Event Sales are final.

Follow our Facebook page for updates as they happen!

2022 SCHEDULE

Washington County Ag Ed Center
7313 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, Md.

InterstateFoodTruckFest.com

Interstate Food Truck Festival Facebook page


Saturday, Aug. 13

NOON–10:00 PM

Featuring:

Super Spreader

Audio Façade

Shake the Room

Jimmie’s Chicken Shack

Sunday, Aug. 14

11:00 AM–5:00 PM

Featuring:

Maryland Institute of Music

Staff Infection

The Reagan Years

$1,400 in Cash Bash Live prizes will be drawn throughout the weekend! Click here for Cash Bash Ticket information!

 

Content ©WiYNN 2022. All rights reserved.

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