When world fusion vegan food truck Vengan Pa’Ka rolled up to the third annual Eugene Food Truck Festival, its crew was ready to “kill it” for their first time at the event. The sun was shining over the Lane County Fairgrounds, heating up to 80 degrees — reaching around 100 degrees inside the trucks. With thousands of attendees, beginning at 11 a.m., lines quickly grew around each of the 47 food trucks, and for a good reason.
The Eugene Food Truck Festival is a fundraising event organized by the Eugene Mission, a non-profit homeless shelter and wellness center. The event began in 2016, with only 25 vendors, but was a huge success: it attracted 13,000 event-goers in its first year. The festival has continued to grow and raise money for the Mission.
Last Saturday, June 30, 47 food trucks and other vendors gathered at the fairgrounds to serve 12,000 guests. The cost of admission was a $3 donation and food trucks donated 15 percent of their profits from the day. There was also a VIP ticket option that cost attendees $10 and gave them early access to the food trucks to avoid lines. The 500 VIP tickets sold out quickly, according to Caitlin Vargas, Eugene Mission’s development director.
Pat Walsh, the Mission’s spokesperson, said this year’s event raised $52,000. The money will go toward programs and services like the Life Change program, a 12 to 18 month recovery and rehabilitation program that costs the Mission $5,000 per person but is free for participants.
“Seeing the amount of people that were out there supporting food trucks, and not even supporting the food trucks but the Eugene Mission is awesome,” said Juan Umaña, owner of Vengan Pa’Ka. “That was definitely one of the biggest highlights of working at the Food Truck Fest that it was going for a good cause.”
Vinnie Cowan, the owner of Vinnie’s Smokin’ BBQ food truck, has participated in all three years of the festival. He and his family are long-time supporters of the Eugene Mission.
“My folks, they had been donating to the mission for forever,” said Cowan, showing off the tattoo of his truck’s logo on his arm. “So I knew it was a good organization. We’ve been donating to them ever since.”
Cowan’s truck raised over $1,000 for the Mission, making it one of the top-earning trucks of the day.
Along with the food trucks and what was called the “Marketplace” for craft vendors, there were live music performances, face painting and other kids activities, a tent for dogs to cool off and a free photo booth inside a van.
Organizers also held a competition between the food trucks — three celebrity judges for local news and radio stations and three Facebook contest winners taste-tested each food truck and gave awards to their favorites.
Vengan Pa’Ka won the “Most Creative Culinary Creations” and “Eugene’s Favorite Food Truck” awards. The truck opened in November 2017 and this was its first appearance at the festival.
When Umaña was taking his break, he was exploring other food trucks when he heard the news. Other food truck crews congratulated him as he walked by and he broke the news to his team.
“That was beautiful, that was probably my favorite part,” he said. “Seeing the support within the food truck community and then just seeing the faces of my staff, that was just like, ‘Dude, we did it.’”