Fairgrounds to Host Festival Featuring Dozens of Food Trucks, Locally Made Goods and Live Music

Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead is partnering with the Flathead Food Truck Festival for a pair of events expected to draw thousands of people to the fairgrounds

By Mike Kordenbrock
Food trucks at the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival. JP Edge | Flathead Beacon

More than 160 vendors and roughly 40 food trucks will be taking over the Flathead County Fairgrounds starting this Friday, June 23, for a pair of multi-day events offering local food, local goods and live music.

This is the second year that the Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead, a 41-year-old nonprofit that promotes arts, crafts and small businesses in the Flathead, has partnered with the Flathead Food Truck Festival, and the combined events are expected to bring in thousands of people each day.

The free art and craft show will be housed in the Trade Center Building at the county fairgrounds, and is scheduled to go from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The food truck festival will run from noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and there is a $9 admission fee, with kids 12 and under getting in for free.

The summer show for the Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead is one of two they put on annually, with the other being a Christmas-themed show that takes place in November. The group prides itself on its emphasis on the production and sale of local, handmade items. Wendy Maechtle, who handles publicity for the Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead, said that attendees will be able to browse jewelry, wood products, soap, jams, oil paintings, watercolor paintings, crocheted items, signs, photography, blankets, lotions, chocolates, puzzles, metal art, leatherwork, local honey, and much more.

“It’s just a really good place to hang out Friday or Saturday … Everybody’s upbeat. It’s something to do in our valley, and it’s something big,” Maechtle said.

The food truck offerings will run a similar wide-ranging gamut, including burgers, fries, barbecue, chicken sandwiches, Thai food, berry bowls, ice cream, goat ice cream, boba tea, corn dogs, tacos, piroshkis, donuts, kettle corn and more. There will also be corn hole boards set up, as well as bounce houses and other kids activities.

SunRift Beer Company will also be onsite selling beer, as well as wine, cider and hard seltzers.

Ryan Garnache, who opened the Kalispell-based KnucklHed BBQ food truck 2018, described how the specialization of food trucks, which tend to focus on a narrower menu that they can execute well, can help set them apart from brick-and-mortar eateries.

“We hear from people all the time ‘Why is it that my favorite restaurants have wheels?’” Garnache said.

“Even a Chinese restaurant has a hamburger and chicken tenders on the menu, but you know that’s not going to be the best burger you’ve ever had,” Garnache explained. “Food trucks are typically a bit of a narrow menu. You don’t have as many choices but they’re bringing the items they can shine on.”

He said that the food truck festival is the largest gathering of food trucks in the Flathead, and that it has grown from its roots during the first pandemic summer of 2020 when there were about 17 food trucks that came together at a time when they were struggling for business. That inaugural festival was organized by Barbara Veverka, the owner of Copacabana Grill, a food truck and catering business offering Brazilian barbecue. Garnache said that alongside their partners with Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead, including the group’s former president Lindsay Mena, he and Veverka volunteer their time as the primary organizers of the food truck festival. He credited Veverka for starting a grassroots event that has given local food trucks a business boost at the start of their busy summer season.  

The community support has been fantastic, Garnache said, and attendance for the two-day event grew from about 6,000 people in 2021 to 14,000 people last year. One visible improvement this year is the upgrade from a flatbed trailer to an actual performance stage for musicians. Garnache encouraged people to purchase tickets online to help cut down on lines, and said that using the code FOODTRUCK15 for online ticket purchases will give people a 15% price discount.

Live music will start Friday at noon with Kelly Diane, followed by Mike Murray at 2 p.m., Zachary Christ at 4 p.m., WildWind at 6 p.m. and Luke Dowler & The Midnight Conversations at 8 p.m. Saturday’s music lineup begins with Borderline Lucid at noon, Dan Dubuque at 2:30 p.m., The Kenny James Miller Band at 4:50 p.m. and Flat Black at 7:15 p.m.

Access to the fairgrounds main south parking lot will be off of Wyoming Street, and parking will also be available in the fairground’s annex parking located in a grass field north of Wyoming Street. Two free trolleys will be taking regular laps from the parking lots to the Trade Center Building.

A final list of the festival’s food truck lineup was released Thursday and included the following: 406 Taco Nite, Bombshell Sweets, Chicken Chariot, Copacabana Grill, The Corndog House, Cup O’Soul, D&T BBQ, The Dancing Burro, Flathead Mini Donuts, Food Dudes, Frey Guys Funnel, GOAT Ice Cream, Glacier Acai, Glacier Gourmet, Glacier Shave Ice, Golden Sammies, Hell on Wheels, KnucklHed BBQ, Montana Mtn Dawgs, Moo Brew Wagon, Mother Chorizo’s, Mountain Berry Bowls, My Thai To Go, NW Island Noodles, Piroshki Palace, Plump & Sassy, Rebel Roots, Rescue Dogs, Salad2, Sodalightful, The Sugarhouse, Sweet Pickin’s Kettle Corn, Arn’s BBQ (Friday only), Back Porch Coffee, Kahuna Hot Dogs, The Nut Hut, Pony Express Creations, Sugar Rush Drinks.

For more information go to https://artistsandcraftsmen.org/products/acf-2023-summer-show or check out https://www.facebook.com/FlatheadFoodTruckFest.

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