Food trucks from all over the West Coast returned to the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Independence Day for the second annual Great Umpqua Food Truck Competition.

Hosted by the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, organizers said they went to great lengths to avoid the pitfalls that resulted from last year’s wildly successful event.

The number of water stands were doubled, the amount of staff directing traffic was doubled, the number of ATMs were tripled, and an additional beer and wine stand was added.

“We made a lot of really positive changes to eliminate the lines and the pressure so people could spend more time hanging out in the shade, eating, having a beer, listening to music than waiting in line,” Umpqua Economic Development Executive Director Wayne Patterson said.

Close to 20,000 people were in attendance last year, well above the event organizer’s expectations. Vendors sold out of food before the day’s end, and quickly ran out of water and other beverages. That, along with the warm weather, caused a number of problems that were addressed for the this year’s competition.

Jeb Sides and his wife, Bao Quach-Sides, with their food truck, Banh Mi Saigon, made the four-hour drive from Vancouver, Washington, for the competition. While it was their first time at the event, Jeb Sides said that they felt prepared for the crowds.

“We’ve done about all you can,” Sides said. “How are you gonna prepare for 22,000 people? You bring what you can, and just do the best you can.”

Corri Geffen of Myrtle Creek came to the festival wearing a wig made of glittering red tinsel and a red, white and blue feather boa. She explained that she loves to dress up and has a box of accessories for each holiday. Geffen thought that this year was an improvement over last year.

“Anything that’s new, they go through growing pains,” Geffen said. “This looks more organized, and it looks like it’s gonna be a little bit better. It was great last year too; I really enjoyed it, but this seems a little bit better because they learn from their mistakes.”

Fifteen minutes after the event opened to the general public, there was a line of more than 25 people at the Mac and Cheese Steaks food truck from Klamath Falls.

Cecilia Bell of Roseburg was at the end of this line. She explained that she enjoyed their food last year and that they were well worth the wait.

Last year, 27 food trucks attended, compared to 25 this year.

For the first contest last year, there was a three-way tie for first place between Wok Star, Tam’s Place and Fuel Mobile Kitchen. In order to prevent that from happening again, the festival now has a secret ballot in place in the case of a tie.

This year, Fuel Mobile Kitchen won the first place prize of $10,000. The $5,000 second place prize went to Big Fat Weiners and the third place $1,000 prize went to Smokey G’s BBQ. The Best of Douglas County $1,000 prize was awarded to Salud Brewery and Food Truck.

Patterson explained that plans call for more community events in the future, including a North Umpqua trail race in September. Their goal is try to add a brand new event each year.

“So the idea here is to create a community event that stimulates interest in our community, brings people from outside the community as well as from with in, and provides something that’s really unique to us as a community,“ Patterson said. “That’s kind of what it’s all about.”

Eric Schucht is a general assignment reporter for The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4217 or eschucht@nrtoday.com.

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Eric Schucht is the Charles Snowden intern at The News-Review. He recently graduated from the University of Oregon.

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