We had barely said “hello” to one another, and Anne-Marie Aigner was already asking me, “Have you ever eaten at a food truck?”
Not the typical first question you ask a stranger, but then again, as the Founder and Executive Producer of the Food Truck Festivals of New England (FTFNE), Aigner has every right to ask that. Founded in 2011, FTFNE is a tour of consecutive food truck festivals throughout the region, dedicated to bringing local food trucks out of the city and into communities across the Northeast.
After listening to me gush for a solid three minutes about my insane love for Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and SoWa Open Market, Aigner opened up to me about her inspiration for creating the FTFNE. “My function for my clients is to spot trends before they become a trend,” she says of the marketing agency she’s headed for nearly 30 years. About a year and a half ago, one of her clients wanted to throw an event in the summer, and after noticing food trucks were becoming hot in cities like Los Angeles and Austin, Aigner decided it was “worth testing” here in Massachusetts.
The Fabulous Food Truck Festival in Plymouth, MA, turned out to be a massive success. About 2,000 people were expected to attend, but 5,000 showed up, causing all eight food trucks to sell out. At that first festival, Aigner describes a stage with live music saying, “No body went over there.” Instead, everyone congregated around the trucks. “It’s all about the food and the trucks….There is something very exciting about the trend.”
Aigner became close with some of the food truck owners who were forming an operational trade organization for food trucks in Boston, and she was invited to help with their marketing. “I realized what they needed was some sort of destination events,” she says of her work with them.
So, they decided to test the festival model again. In October 2011, she organized the festival at Shoppers World in Framingham, MA, which drew close to 8,000 people, and one at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, which drew more than 10,000 people
“Everybody was thrilled,” she says of the first of the FTFNE. This year, her team was only supposed to host five festivals, but the demand was so enormous, that Aigner pushed the limit to 10 festivals this year – and there is still a waitlist. For Aigner, that’s a solid indicator that food trucks are not just a fad, and shouldn’t remain solely within Boston city limits, either. From Brighton to Worchester, Cape Cod to Newport, RI, the festivals cover a broad range of communities throughout New England.
The first festival of the season, the Boston Food Truck Festival, kicks off this Sunday, June, 10 at the UMass Boston Campus Center, with over 25 trucks participating. One $30 ticket entitles you to sample one portion of every truck, allowing you to sample all of them – if you can handle it. “Our advice to everybody is to come hungry,” says Aigner, adding that attendees should also plan on arriving early, because they are trucks, after all, and can only store so much food on board.
“It’s gourmet food on wheels,” says Aigner of the enormous popularity of food trucks. “They’re bringing the food to where people are.”
For a complete schedule of the Food Truck Festivals of New England, click here.