Westerville News & Public Opinion

Food truck festival coming to Westerville

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One of the latest food trends will collide with a good cause this weekend, as the Westerville Area Resource Ministry presents the Great Westerville Food Truck Fest.

The festival will feature 20 local food trucks and live entertainment between noon and 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, on the Nationwide Children's campus on Executive Parkway.

Free parking will be accessible from County Line Road at Westar Crossing.

Admission to the festival is free, but donation buckets will be placed at each food truck. In addition, festival patrons are invited to assemble 10,000 food packets through Generosity Feeds from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Nationwide Children's sports medical center, 584 County Line Road. The packets will be distributed through WARM's food pantry.

In organizing the festival, WARM's staff wanted to create a fun community event that would bring attention to hunger and poverty in the community, and to WARM's holistic approach to combatting those issues, said WARM Development and Communications Manager Cheryl Wooten.

"Every day, there's something coming out talking about the severity of hunger issues in America; and people want to help, but they don't know how, they don't know when, they don't know where," Wooten said. "(The festival) is an opportunity to give financially to WARM. It's an opportunity to assemble food packages. It's an opportunity to support food vendors who have the will to go out and start their own businesses."

In addition, Wooten said, the festival will provide a fun way to make a difference.

"We really wanted to bless the community with a festival celebration and to recognize the generosity of Westerville. People want to help," Wooten said.

The festival is a departure for WARM, whose largest annual fundraiser until now has been the Community Prayer Breakfast, which brings in about 250 people.

WARM's leaders wanted to do more to raise funds and generate awareness, Executive Director Scott Marier said, but didn't want to add another gala or golf outing to the community's calendar.

"We wanted to find something that was unique to our community," Marier said. "There seems to be a big buzz around food trucks. It's never been done in Westerville before.

"The idea was: Could we generate some interest and some excitement?"

The idea seemed to take off quickly. Organizers drew big sponsors, including presenting sponsors Nationwide Children's Hospital and Pepsi, as well as popular local food truck vendors, including Mojo Tago, Tatoheads, My Place or Yours and Pizza Mike's.

Local entertainment, all of which has been volunteered, includes musicians Avalon Nine, No Outlet and Eric Gnezda.

Others stepped forward to offer face painting, crafts, a hot-air balloon display, obstacle courses and balloon animals.

Westerville Sunrise Rotary will sell beer to benefit WARM.

"We've been fortunate that the community interest has been phenomenal. People got excited that we were going to do this in Westerville," Marier said. "The reason it's come this far this fast is because a lot of good people got involved."

Wooten said organizers are hoping for a positive turnout on Sunday so that WARM can make the food truck festival an annual event.

"I'm really hoping that people are hearing about this and responding to it. With the success of this year, we'll have an annual event for years to come," Wooten said. "It's something we hope the community will get behind and come and have a great time."

For those who would like to support WARM during September, which is Hunger Action Month, another opportunity is available through the Columbus Foundation's Big Give, which will feature WARM as a beneficiary.

Between 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, and 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, people can make donations to WARM online at ColumbusFoundation.org.

Organizations that receive donations will be eligible for bonus grants through the foundation.

Donations will support not only WARM's food pantry, but the many services WARM offers to fight poverty and provide intervention to people struggling with employment, budget or related issues, Wooten said.

ABB, 579 Executive Campus Drive, also will host a drive-through food drive for WARM from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20.

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