By Madeline Morren

The 254’s Finest: My Experience with the Artisans and Vendors of Waco

In March, 35 of Texas’ tastiest food trucks gathered downtown to compete in the Texas Food Truck Showdown with the hopes of taking home the title of grand champion. The competition was fierce with signature dishes, ranging from a “Gourmet Big Fat Donut” to the “Grilled Cheese Trilogy.”

Although the food was the main attraction, it wouldn’t be much of a festival if there were only trucks parked in a lot. The event had live music from local musicians, a petting zoo, a reptile show, an artist market and promotional booths from local businesses. As a part of my internship, I helped plan the artists’ market and worked at one of the booths during the festival.

After months of preparation and coordination with local artists, the time had finally come. I was in charge of directing each vendor to their correct spot and making sure everyone was happy. Although I had communicated with vendors multiple times via phone or email, this would be the first time I met most of them in person. It was safe to say that I was nervous.

I can only imagine my look of professionalism as I arrived at Heritage Square at 6 a.m. with coffee stains already on my shirt and my arms full with boxes and banners. My heart dropped when I saw vendors setting up their booths, since I was the one who was supposed to tell them where their correct booth was. I broke out into sweat as I began rehearsing what I would say to the artists who had set up shop in the wrong spot, making them move all of their stuff. But to my surprise, every artist was in his or her proper spot.

Noticing my relief, artist and booth occupant Greg Lewallen assured me the map I sent each vendor before the event saved everyone a lot of time and confusion. His comment was enough to get me through the whole festival, but it didn’t stop there. Each vendor was incredibly gracious and inclusive, despite only having met me hours before.

The rest of the festival went by without a hitch (thankfully)! I watched as each artist and artisan interacted with thousands of festival attendees — it was a surreal experience. Of the 150,000 visitors downtown that day, I’m convinced the vendors of the artists’ market might have personally known 149,999 of them.

I loved every minute of this year’s Texas Food Truck Showdown, but not because of the delicious food or the pigmy goats — I loved getting to see the people who love Waco the most enjoy the people they love the most. It’s an experience I will be sure to carry with me for the rest of my life, so that when I look back at my time in Waco, all I remember is love.