The “Grub Hub” at Westerner Park Fair and Exposition isn’t just cooking up french fries and pumping liquid flavour onto shaved ice.
Dozens of food trucks — many of them local — surround the food tent, offering everything from mac-n-cheese to platefuls of perogies to slices of homemade pie.
“The selection is definitely better than previous years,” said Tammy Maggiacomo, enjoying a Fu Manchu taco from The Stache food trailer with husband Chris and daughter Journey. “There’s healthier options, too. And it’s nice to see places we recognize from around the city.”
Yolanda Infante, owner of Yolanda Infante’s Concessions, has been setting up shop for Westerner Days since the 1990s.
She said she’s pleased that more and more local food businesses are also getting involved with the annual fair.
“It’s so nice to see people I know and I think that’s why people come to me — they know me. They recognize my face from the farmers’ market,” said Infante, 61, who also ran her concession for years at a local arena.
She said when she first started selling her cuisine at Westerner Days, there was only one other local food vendor.
Now there are over 20, including Peppermint Andy’s Ice Cream Wagon and Chedda’ Heads Grilled Cheese Truck.
“I’m most known for my sautéed pork. People just love it,” said Infante, who also sells corn on a cob and tacos in a bag.
Kasota East Camp has had a booth selling hamburgers, fries and homemade pies at the fair for the past 29 years and prides itself on its “family friendly prices,” said Judy-Ann Wybenga, a volunteer with the camp and self-described “chief executive boothmeister.”
“It’s fun to be a part of the excitement,” she said, noting 250 volunteers man the booth over the five days and all proceeds go towards the summer Christian camp. “People come back every year for our double cheese burgers because we have a special secret sauce we use.”
Award winning wraps are also available at Wrap Daddy’s food truck from Kelowna, B.C.
“We just finished the Calgary Stampede where our chicken Thai noodle wrap won best new midway food,” said owner Mike Morter. “We have a variety of gluten-free options, which we also won an award for at the Stampede for best alternative food option.”
Wrap Daddy’s has been coming to Westerner Days for the past three years.
“When we get here, customers tell me they’ve been waiting for me,” Morter said. “Our No. 1 is the chicken wrap, our original that comes with fresh stir-fried chicken, topped with fresh signature tomato salsa that we make right here.”
Westerner Days was a first for Lethbridge resident Ben Vaka and his Flyin’ Hawaiian food truck.
“It’s great to have been invited to be here, great exposure,” said Vaka, who started his business, Hawaiian Treats, in January and has made a few appearances at the Red Deer Public Market.
“We were Lethbridge’s first food truck and we’re booked right to December,” he said. “Our pina coladas are everyone’s pick but we have this treat that’s just flour and yeast and sugar and you dip it in a coconut dipping sauce.”
Vaka is headed to Utah for a carnival after Westerner Days, then back up to Grande Prairie.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian food truck is this year’s favourite for Erin Gobolos, marketing manager for Westerner Park.
“I tasted their version of the mini doughnut — it has this Hawaiian twist to it — and it puts all other mini doughnuts to shame,” said Gobolos.
Chowing down at the fair is “kind of like Christmas,” said Gobolos.
“You can indulge in these things you only really get once a year like elephant ears.”
Over 13,000 people passed through the gates at the fair on Wednesday, up by 477 from 2013, said Gobolos.
Friday at Westerner Days: Rock bands Harlequin and Honeymoon Suite hit the ATB Financial Main Stage. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the shows kicks off at 8:30 p.m. Central Alberta singer Randi Boulton is also performing at the Lounge from 9 to 11 p.m.