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Food truck events continue despite pandemic

Food trucks roll on despite pandemic

Jill Schramm/MDN Frank Jangula with LaVonne’s Cheesebutton Factory Plus serves a customer during the Minot Food Truck Festival in Oak Park Aug. 23.

It hasn’t been the summer that food vendors had been hoping for, but they and their customers have been making the best of a pandemic situation.

The cancellation of many fairs and festivals due to the threat from COVID-19 limited the number of events that food truck vendors have been able to participate in. The fourth annual Minot Food Truck Festival Aug. 23 was only the third event of the year for LaVonne’s Cheesebutton Factory Plus in Bismarck. Typically, it would be the sixth or seventh, said Frank Jangula, who was serving up factory fare at the festival.

“It’s been very slow,” he said. “Every event we have been at is half-sized crowds.”

Still, he was pleased with the Minot event.

“We are glad we came. We will come back next year and, hopefully, the crowds will be back. People seem to enjoy it,” Jangula said.

Jill Schramm/MDN Rez Famous Lemonades caters to a customer at the food truck event at The Spot in downtown Minot Aug. 22.

The three-day food truck event at The Spot in downtown Minot Aug. 22 was the eighth event of the year for Blaine Marsh with Rockin’ Bakken BBQ, which also sells at the Tioga Community Farmers Market.

“This year, with COVID, it’s pretty much knocked down 95% of everything. You have organizations like this one that’s just aching to get something going, trying to fill that void,” Marsh said. “People in the food truck industry – it’s a starving business right now.”

Marsh has been in business only since March 2019 but had a busy first year, traveling to Montana, South Dakota and around North Dakota. He’s filled in the gaps this year by doing a lot of catering and selling lunches in the oil field.

“But this right here is what it’s all about,” he said as he smoked meat at The Spot’s event. “This is what I love. I love smoking meat. I love doing barbecue.”

Mandy Nelson with Sugar Daddy Sweets of Minot just started her business last November, selling at a farmers market, peddler’s market and food truck events.

“Any opportunity, I am going to take it,” she said. “For me, it’s so new I didn’t know what to expect.”

The Spot had hosted another food truck event in mid-July to give people a taste of the North Dakota State Fair, which had canceled its festivities for 2020.

“It was great. We had a great four-day turnout,” said Jeremy Mahany of The Starving Rooster, which has worked with The Spot to put on the food truck events. Mahany said it has been a tough year for the vendors. That is why vendors weren’t charged to participate in the events at The Spot.

Eric Thoemke with the Minot Food Truck Festival said he and other organizers were hesitant this time around about putting on the event because of COVID-19.

“But we felt like the community needed something like this,” he said. People who turned out were respectful of other people’s spaces, and Thoemke said attendance, although down from the usual 5,000 people, was better than expected given the circumstances.

The festival offered 28 food vendors in addition to children’s activities, arts and crafts vendors and stage performers.

“It’s a great year for food here,” Thoemke said. “It’s the best year in terms of variety.”

The summer started slow for Slezak BBQ of Watford City, one of the festival vendors. But events have cropped up around the area, said Colette Slesh, who noted the festival was the business’s second visit to Minot this year, having taken part in Tacofest at The Spot in July.

“It’s really fun,” Slesh said. “We love the people, because that’s what it’s about.”

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