JerseyFest Food Truck Mash-Up at the Meadowlands: The Ground Report

Based on the huge turnout at the event this weekend, Exposure North Jersey definitely gets a nod for their marketing reach to bring the masses to the New Meadowlands Racetrack this weekend. It was a Jersey vs. Philly theme, and the battle was intense between the trucks as lines stretched back as far as more than one hundred people deep for some of the vendors.

We arrived at the Meadowlands around 7:45pm and took the shuttle from Lot M over to the new grandstand area, where the event was being held. Buses were brought in from Columbia University to shuttle people from remote parking areas. It was perfect weather; warm with a cool breeze. Dozens of tents filled the grounds, along with the usual Meadowlands vending stations (which are attractive for an outdoor venue), the beer garden glittering with lights, the colorful and diverse food trucks, and a crowd that was eager to sample as much of the different choices as they could.

I’ve seen some news coverage from over the weekend & it appears (not sure I’m accurate) that it may have been less crowded during the earlier hours of the event, which began at 3:30 for early access & 5pm for general admission. I’m thinking next year the extra cash for early admission might be worthwhile as we enjoyed ourselves, but barely ate and food due to the long waiting times. I heard one woman say that she waited 2 hours for MexiFlip TacoTruck; their Instagram thanked those that waited up to 3 hours. Wow. God has not blessed me with that much patience for any type of food, and I opted for trucks that had 20 or less people at a time – mostly those that were running out of ingredients by the time we hit the grounds.

This leads to my pieces of feedback for anyone (Exposure North Jersey, Meadowlands Event Administration & the Food Trucks) who might be in the stages of reviewing this event for better execution next year or at similar venues. My day job happens to be event management at one of the local NJ universities, so I’m not just saying these points to bitch or criticize for effect; I really just would like to be helpful from a genuine perspective.

Strengths of the JerseyFest event:

1. Marketing – I saw your ad running everywhere, including papers, signage, & social media outlets. It was attractive & concise. The branding of the event matched the outcomes & “feel” I believe you were looking for.

2. Venue selection – The New Meadowlands has revitalized the racetrack corner of the NJSEA and events like these are a win for all the planners & participants. Lots of folks at this event saw their first harness race and explored the New Meadowlands grounds, finding out there is a lot to enjoy there close to home. Of course, being a fairly new & visually appealing backdrop is advantageous.

3. Event content – Selection of Food Trucks, various vendor tabling, entertainment provided, and activities were very well done.

4. Age appropriate – Fun for young & old, single, couples, or families.

5. Theme – Let’s face it, “Mash-Ups” and Food Trucks are having a moment; why not celebrate that? Of course, this is a NJ centered blog, so we are all about anything “Jersey” centric. The local trucks, B Street Band, local business participation, & Meadowlands combo was spot on for the Jersey theme. A little regional competition made things interesting too as we live in perpetual rivalry to Philly & NYC.

Maybe for Next Time:

1. Line management at shuttles – Signage that directs people into two lines for the shuttles could be helpful when lines start to get long. Having everyone wait in one long line & then having one or two people telling them at the front of the lines which bus has arrived caused some confusion & delayed entering/exiting from the event lots. Having one person work the front of the line, while another walks along the line to explain there are two lines for two lots would be ideal.

2. Line management at ticket sale booth – Again, having staff work throughout the lines, explaining there were actually 3 people available to sell admission would have expedited entry. You couldn’t see this from the one, massive line that formed with no one directing traffic. There was no signage to direct people to the ticket area either, so if you weren’t following a mass, you did not know where to get into the event upon arrival.

3. Spacing of Food Trucks – There was great confusion among the crowds waiting in lines for food because the lines wrapped around one another, sometimes with hundreds of people. Crowds of people passing through from one part of the grounds to the other were impeded by these masses as well, which can add unnecessary frustration to an otherwise carefree event. More space between the trucks, with some form of partitions that organize lines, with signs marking what truck belongs to each line, would help very much. I do understand that you must contain the entire event within the parameters of the grandstand event area, but even expanding the space next year into the lots somehow but adding crown controlling barricades to keep the perimeter secure could be a possible solution.

4. Food Truck supply & demand reinforcements – I feel that many of the trucks were overwhelmed by the huge turnout: some ran out of supplies & certain foods, others could not turn out the product fast enough for the crowd’s demand. Nevertheless, people still seemed to be in good spirits and had a good attitude about it, but there was lots of talk about the aspects aforementioned within the long lines. I’d suggest that the trucks stock up the days before on readily available items (chopped fruits & veggies for example) and bring auxiliary equipment (extra coolers, freezers, portable stovetops tables & more staff) to supplement their trucks. People wanted to try most, if not all of the trucks & the way the lines were, this was not possible for most participants.

All in all, this event was definitely one I feel kicked off my summer adventures in an enjoyable & “Jersey Pop’ appropriate fashion. I would like to catch the trucks again sometime together again soon (I’ve already been looking at the Exposure North Jersey events link) so I can try those I missed this time around.

Thanks to anyone reading & remember, we also have our Jersey Pop Trivia App available at the iTunes Store for iOS devices. Follow us on Instagram @JerseyPopTrivia and Twitter @Jersey_Pop for more action from the Garden State!

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