Foodies' delight: Naperville, Aurora food truck festivals kick off this weekend
With spring upon us and summer approaching, the outdoor festival season is beginning to take shape, with food truck fests offering the unique opportunity to sample a variety of cuisine in a single stop.
This Saturday, the Naperville Food Truck Fest returns, featuring 25 food trucks in a scenic setting.
"This will be our third year doing it. And it's right in the heart of downtown Naperville at the Naper Settlement. That's just a beautiful venue. It really takes you back in time," said Brew Avenue Events founder and president Alessandro Vazquez of the outdoor history museum.
"We'll have food trucks from all over. Plus, we throw in some great kids' entertainment. There will be face painting and a music station. We just try to make it a fun event."
Saturday's festival, which runs from 1-7 p.m., with early eater access starting at 11 a.m., features a little something for everyone. Festgoers can try bites from food trucks such as Auntie Vee's, Flyin Hawaiian, Grumpy Gaucho, Happy Lobster Truck, Savory Crust, Smiley's Barbecue, Tickle My Tamale and more.
A local vendor village will showcase Naperville businesses, and balloon and bubble artists will be on hand to entertain children. In addition to live bands, DJs also will perform. And for adults, there's a beer garden.
"We happen to be on Cinco de Mayo weekend, so the beer garden is all Mexican beer-themed," Vazquez said. "We are also doing a food truck taco challenge. Tacos come in all different kinds and sizes, right? There's Chinese bao sandwiches you can look at as tacos. There's Hawaiian tacos. So, I encouraged the food trucks to offer a taco on their menu. I'm going to do a poll on Facebook and we'll have people vote on their favorites."
This weekend's fest offers free parking, and most vendors take both cash and credit. Advance tickets are $10, Early Eater tickets cost $15, and children 10 and younger get in free with a paying adult. As is the case with most Brew Avenue Events, a portion of the festival's proceeds will benefit a local charity, with the Naperville festival assisting Community Access Naperville, which works to support disabled adults.
Vazquez, creator and producer of the former Tri-City Craft Brew Festival in St. Charles, founded Brew Avenue Events in 2015 with a focus on suds, making the pivot to food trucks two years later.
Brew Avenue is based in Oswego, where Vazquez staged his first food truck festival. The company also caters private events, an area of growth amid the pandemic, sourcing local food trucks for weddings, parties, corporate stagings and more.
"There's a Greek food truck. A Jamaican food truck. Filipino, Ecuadorian. There's a lobster truck. Pizza trucks, pierogi trucks. High-end barbecue and everything in the middle. Mini doughnuts, funnel cakes. Almost every cuisine or food, someone has figured out how to serve it on a truck," Vazquez said.
With so much great food to be found throughout the suburbs, for Vazquez, the key to the success of the food truck festival concept -- one which keeps it sustainable -- is in localizing each fest, celebrating the unique cultural elements the specific location has to offer.
"That's actually one of the driving forces behind our events," he said. "I've been building these food truck festivals with the trucks as the hero. I source the best that the area has to offer. So, as I move from market to market, there's different trucks. Every area has its own favorites, right?
"I'm always impressed by the creativity and the drive behind some of these food truck owners," Vazquez said. "They're often small business owners or husband-and-wife or brother-and-sister teams. And they're just very ingenious in how they get their food prepared on the trucks. They seek out opportunities and they're working their dream."
And Naperville's fest is just one of many planned for this spring and summer.
Featuring 25 food trucks, the free Aurora event will run alongside the Fox River on Benton between River and Broadway, with a beer garden set up in the parking lot at SciTech. For details and participating food trucks, see auroradowntown.org/food-truck-fest-2022/.
This summer will mark the debut of the Lemont Food Truck Fest, which takes place from 12:30-7 p.m. Saturday, July 2, at The Forge, an adventure park at Lemont Quarries featuring ziplining, rope courses, climbing towers and more. The fest will feature food trucks, a beer garden, live music and a vendor village. General admission tickets, which cost $5-$10 (free for kids 10 and younger), are available at eventbrite.com/.
And on Sunday, July 24, food trucks return to Winfield, with the Winfield Food Truck Fest happening as part of Winfield Summerfest alongside the Winfield leg of the Intelligentsia Cup, a cycling criterium that takes place throughout the suburbs in late July.
"We did it last year and it was amazing," Vazquez said. "It's tied in with this American biking race. Downtown Winfield gets roped off. They had this full course, and all day long there were bike races, which was amazing. We do food trucks and a beer garden off to the side so everybody can carb up before they ride. There's a real unique vibe to it."
As for the future, look for more food truck fests. "I've really found my niche out here in the suburbs," Vazquez said.
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Naperville Food Truck Festival
Where: Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville, napersettlement.org/
When: 1-7 p.m. Saturday, May 7, with Early Eater access starting at 11 a.m.
Admission: $10, free for kids 10 and younger with paying adult; $15 for Early Eater