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Food Truck Fiesta Sets The Bar High For Alternative THON Fundraisers

The first annual Food Truck Fiesta took over the parking lot of Grace Lutheran Church (better known as the Dorito Church) on Friday, September 15. The event brought food trucks from all over central Pennsylvania to Happy Valley for an evening of live music and culinary delights — and not only was it delicious, but the event also raised money for THON.

Seniors Tessa Sontheimer and Sam Boland, junior Jack Iffert, and sophomores Katie Hockenberry and Ray Hoy organized the event. They all sit on the board of Apollo, a special interest org benefiting THON. After former Apollo president Angela Linton attended a food truck festival in Harrisburg last year, the group realized the potential of organizing a similar event in downtown State College. With the end of canning, THON organizations must find creative alternatives to raise money, and the team believes events like the fiesta are the future of fundraising.

“We really wanted to create an event that engaged not only the student population, but also the community members,” Sontheimer said. 

Bringing students and long-term residents together was a main priority in planning the event.  Apollo knew this type of celebration would be a unique and fun way to get the community rallied around a great cause.

“We all really love food and the local State College restaurant scene and were so happy to find a way to combine these passions for philanthropy and local foods,” Sontheimer said.

And the team definitely hit the nail on the head. The event brought eleven vendors — nine food vendors and two apparel vendors — in addition to musical acts.

“We had about 1,000 ‘going’ on Facebook and another 2,000 ‘interested’ (dogs not included), but one of the vendors estimated there were actually about 2,500 people in attendance,” Iffert said. “The beautiful fall weather and fantastic food truck fare contributed to an amazing atmosphere.”

With such positive reception, Apollo has big plans for the future of the event, including a goal to have twice as many vendors for next year. The potential list includes local favorites like El Gringo’s Taco Truck and Nomad Kitchen Food Truck, both of which had prior commitments the night of the Fiesta.

“Since it was our first fiesta, we had no real way to anticipate the interest we’d get or how many attendees we’d have,” Sontheimer said. “Since we have a better idea of the massive interest we tapped into, we will definitely be better positioned to provide more delicious and diverse vendors. Incorporating more live music is also on the list of future improvements.” 

The first annual Food Truck Fiesta is only the beginning of Apollo’s plans to fundraise for THON in new and innovative ways. “Keep your eyes and ears open for a Benefit Concert sponsored by Apollo. If you enjoyed the atmosphere at the Fiesta, the benefit concert will only be groovier.”

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About the Author

Christina Platt

Christina is a junior studying Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management. She is from Bucks County, PA (also known as "just outside Philly"). When she's not in class, you can usually find her hiking in Rothrock State Forest. Email her at [email protected]

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