"If you think you're hot," mused my friend on Sunday afternoon, "think about how hot those guys in the trucks must be."
I stopped fanning myself momentarily and realized how right he was. I shouldn't have been complaining about the heat at the Haute Wheels food truck festival on Sunday afternoon, but I couldn't help it. Shade was at a heavy premium in the concrete parking lot at HCC's Southwest campus. And the lines seemed to be moving at a snail's pace.
The food trucks, of course, aren't normally swarmed by the hundreds upon hundreds of people that showed up to the two-day festival, which sold out on both Saturday and Sunday. For their part, and considering how much work goes into working those tiny kitchens, the food trucks did a great job both days keeping up with the crowds as quickly as possible.
What was more regrettable, however, was how quickly some of the trucks ran out of food.
"Went to Haute Wheels...what a disappointment," said Twitter user Eileen Jones on Saturday evening. "We were told at the entrance that trucks were running out of food and to come back tomorrow."
The next day, however, the food shortages seemed to be resolved. "We made 4 times as much today," Tweeted the MMM Cupcake truck. But, they added: "Still about to sell out! Better hurry if you want a cupcake!!"
Had the food trucks simply not anticipated this volume of customers? Possibly, but it's a great lesson to learn for future food truck festivals or next year's Haute Wheels event. Other takeaways: more seating, more shade and -- for goodness sake -- bring those poor bands closer to the event. They were working too hard to be out in the boonies.
All constructive criticism aside, the feeling on Sunday afternoon was that the kinks of Saturday's festival had been mostly worked out -- at least the immediately fixable ones -- and that the event was going off as a success. Kids sprawled out under the two trees on the property, eating ice cream cones from Snow Dog while teenagers took pictures of each other and their mac 'n' cheese-covered fries from Zilla Street Eats. Boyfriends shaded girlfriends with umbrellas while they took turns eating pho in a cup from Phamily Bites. People took pictures in front of the colorful Bullbutter Bros. Barbecue truck and chatted happily while they waited out the long lines for Bernie's Burger Bus and the Rolling Hunger.
And even though I cover Houston's food scene for a living, I was stunned to see a couple of food trucks at the festival I didn't recognize. Cut & Fry, a Belgian fries truck? Welcome to my dreams.
If you can measure an event's success in visibility and awareness raised, I'd say Haute Wheels did the trick. It was exciting to see so many food trucks -- and so many different concepts at every single one -- in a city that's so long resisted them. Festival-goers seemed just as excited, and eager for the food truck festival to grow and evolve for future events in spite of the sun and the long stretches of sitting around.
"If the Haute Wheels food truck festival was better organized it could be totally rad," wrote Twitter user Caitlin Kaluza. "Let's just say I'm looking forward to next year."
So am I.
To see more photos from the food truck festival, check out our slideshow.
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