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Westmoreland food truck festival serves up good tunes, tasty cuisine

Stephen Huba
| Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, 2:57 p.m.
Kelly Simon of Kelly Simon Event Management talks to the proprietor of the Vagabond Taco Truck during Sunday's Food Truck Festival at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds. Simon hopes to repeat the event next year.
Stephen Huba | Tribune-Review
Kelly Simon of Kelly Simon Event Management talks to the proprietor of the Vagabond Taco Truck during Sunday's Food Truck Festival at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds. Simon hopes to repeat the event next year.

Food truck culture may be transient, but it's gaining a foothold in Westmoreland County.

Ten trucks lined up at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds for Sunday's Western Pennsylvania Food Truck Festival, offering hungry festival-goers everything from gyros to barbecue, from hibachi fare to finger foods.

Three of the trucks were from Westmoreland County — Cruzin Cuisine of Latrobe, Leena's Food of Murrysville and Kona Ice of Greensburg.

"There's a lot more popping up," said Jason Shenkle, chef for Cruzin Cuisine.

Shenkle helped Greensburg-based organizer Kelly Simon coordinate the two-day festival, which Simon hopes to make an annual event in Westmoreland County.

"There's really not an outlet in Westmoreland County (for food trucks)," said Simon of Kelly Simon Event Management. "The Pittsburgh-based trucks don't normally come to Westmoreland County."

Simon said some Westmoreland County businesses will invite food trucks to serve their employees, but acceptance of the concept has been slow.

She has noticed an uptick in interest in the last two years, however, as she has asked people about what kinds of festivals they want to see.

Charles "Chuck" Nevels, proprietor of Fantastic Food, said food truck culture also is spreading in Allegheny County.

"I saw my first one five years ago. It's been picking up the last few years," said Nevels, 45, of Highland Park.

A 20-year veteran of the food service industry, Nevels said he bought his food truck and opened Fantastic Food four months ago. He takes it to office parks and festivals.

"Our network is so close," he said, pointing to the other trucks. "Every one of these guys I've seen at other events. We're like a tight-knit family."

Nevels said he likes that he can change the menu whenever he wants. Variety is important because "no one wants to eat at the same restaurant every day."

Juan Gonzalez, 43, of Green Tree, left a sure thing at Robokyo Japanese Steakhouse in Greensburg and joined the Hoshi food truck in July.

"So far, after 22 years as a hibachi chef, it's paying off," he said.

"We did really well (on Saturday). Everybody really liked it," said co-owner Elizabeth Vater.

Hoshi makes regular stops in the Strip District and at Carnegie Mellon University, among other places in Pittsburgh.

Providing some of the vendors with micro-greens on Sunday was Mt. Pleasant-based Hillside Orchards LLC,

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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