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Thousands satisfy their hunger at indoor Food Truck-a-Palooza in Monroeville

Michael DiVittorio
| Saturday, March 10, 2018, 9:18 p.m.
Chef John O'Donnell from Oakmont Barbeque Co. serves food to West Virginia native Jason Utt at Food Truck-a-Palooza in Monroeville on Saturday.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Chef John O'Donnell from Oakmont Barbeque Co. serves food to West Virginia native Jason Utt at Food Truck-a-Palooza in Monroeville on Saturday.

Helping out a volunteer fire department never tasted so good.

More than 3,000 people flocked to the Monroeville Convention Center on Saturday for the second annual indoor Food Truck-a-Palooza.

The event was organized by GoodTaste! Pittsburgh and Steel City Media, the parent company of Pittsburgh radio stations Q92.9 and 96.9 Bob FM.

GoodTaste! Pittsburgh owner Dee Weinberg said it is not entirely a charitable event, but some of the proceeds went to Monroeville Volunteer Fire Company No. 6.

"This is our second indoor food truck festival at Monroeville, and the only indoor food truck festival in Western Pennsylvania," Weinberg said. "The crowds have just been unbelievable, and we hope to do it again next year at the very same time."

The Food Truck-a-Palooza raised $2,000 for the department last year. It was unclear how much would be donated this time.

Weinberg said she invited the fire company to assist with the event last year in case of emergencies, and it was such a great time that they were brought back.

Firefighters had a booth where they collected donations, held raffles and shared information about volunteering.

"From what we've seen so far, many more people have attended," Deputy Fire Chief Harold Katofsky said. "Thousands of people have come through the one-day event already, and we hope to be raising more money than last year. The funds that we raise helps us with large fire equipment and helps us with training and other things."

Katofsky said other Monroeville businesses benefit from the Food Truck-a-Palooza crowds.

"Hotel rooms have been filled up because of it, and it's made a good impact on our community," he said. "We'd welcome them back again."

Visitors Jason Utt and his wife, Ariana, came from Fairmont, W.Va., to sample the fare from the 30 mobile food providers.

"This is my first food truck festival and it's been great so far," Jason Utt said. "I'd say it's about 95 miles or so (from home). I would definitely come back."

Ariana Utt said the food from Oakmont Barbeque Co. made it worth the trip.

"It's more crowded than I thought it was going to be," Munhall resident Mark Cherpak said. "This is our third different one. Other (Food Truck-a-Paloozas) have been outside. There's so many different types of things you can get at a place like this that you'd have to go to multiple restaurants to be able to match the variety and selection."

Cherpak and his wife, Holly, tried food from Phillybusters. Other food trucks included #ATU, Burgh Bites, Mac and Gold, Speals on Wheels and Beatnik Sweet Eats.

The event featured more than food and firefighters. There was a "style truck" featuring various clothing, face painting, children's activities and live music from the Olga Watkins Band and other acts.

About 32 vendors participated, including Humane Animal Rescue, formed from a merger of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League. At its wildlife center near Verona, staffers recently treated an injured albino raccoon.

"We go to a lot of conventions just so we can talk to more people about adopting animals or just supporting the shelter," said Melissa Smith, associate director of marketing for the shelter in Pittsburgh. "We follow the people. It's been really busy and awesome."

Braydon Hogan, 9, of Monroeville played Humane Animal Rescue's plinko game and won prizes.

"I think it's nice to have something to do in the winter time to keep everybody busy," Braydon's mother, Danielle Mason, said.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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