Tacos vs. smoked ribs. Frozen treats vs. salads.
Hundreds flocked to downtown Norfolk, Neb., on a warm Friday evening in late July for a taste of local food and local music.
The focus? Food Truck Rumble.
The goal? Sample until you were stuffed, then vote on your favorite cuisine. At least, that’s what our goal was.
Seven food trucks, each an individual small business from the area, competed in the rumble. And, some of the businesses have worked with the Center for Rural Affairs.
The business? Food trucks are new in Nebraska and are regulated under the Nebraska Department of Agriculture through the Food and Dairies Division. Food trucks get inspected even more than restaurants; inspectors visit when they go to county fairs or celebrations.
Juan Sandoval, Center for Rural Affairs' Latino Business Director, is also a member of the Norfolk Area Small Business Resource Team. He had seen a similar food truck competition in Grand Island, and thought the event would fit Norfolk.
“While we can compare the size of both cities, the opportunity to provide exposure among city residents made this idea extremely attractive,” Juan said. “We want to promote the trucks and highlight their food. They seem to be the best secret in town and some don’t know about them.”
And Now For The Rumble
With a ticket, individuals were able to visit all seven food trucks for a feature item.
We picked up barbecue three ways at Uncle Jarrol’s Pub-B-Que, a frozen mango dessert at The Ice Shack, and authentic tacos at La Cocina del Mariachi before we were full, and didn’t dare try any more in the summer heat.
Other trucks with food that looked tasty were Taqueria Gonzalez, WolfenDitters, Taqueria Don Nico and Taylormade Catering.
When done sampling, people voted for their favorite truck.
This was the first ever event, and it brought out crowds that surpassed organizers’ expectations. Approximately 350 tickets were sold, and around 200 people were turned away.
“We were expecting a smaller crowd and I believe the food truck owners were thinking like us,” Juan said. “We were concerned about the food trucks’ capacity since they don’t have large refrigerators or a place to keep a lot of food.”
At the end of the day, WolfenDitters and residents of Norfolk came out victorious. The winning truck is owned by Adam Wolfe and Brent Ditter, and they feature barbecue cuisine.
Great for Small Business, Rural Community
Juan said organizers received positive feedback.
“Food truck owners were extremely grateful,” Juan said. “Some of the local restaurants in the Norfolk downtown district were so busy they had to stay open after hours.”
Food trucks were also able to sell menu items. One food truck owner said they did better at this event than at the largest event in Norfolk.
And the ticket holders were happy.
“People had a great attitude about the event,” Juan said. “People wanted to have a great experience and we were able to provide an event that was fun in our community.”
Pictured: Taqueria Gonzalez is just one of seven food trucks that converged onto downtown Norfolk, Neb., for a rumble. Each truck represents an individual small business - some have worked with the Center for Rural Affairs. | Photo by Rhea Landholm