Food lovers gather for first annual Food Truck-a-Palooza

Jeff “Fries” Felzkowski prepares mini donuts for patrons. Rick Argall photo.


Merrill’s first-ever 2024 Food Truck-a-Palooza kicked off the summer season at the Merrill Festival Grounds on Saturday, May 18, 2024, under sunny skies and with summer-like temperatures that topped off somewhere around 80 degrees.
The event featured almost 20 food trucks and more than 65 craft and vendor booths. Local Wisconsin musician, Brad Emanuel, provided the entertainment under the big tent that featured an ample amount of picnic tables for families to sit in the shade and enjoy their food throughout the day. A 50/50 raffle was held by the Lincoln County Humane Society, and a cornhole tournament was on the slate for competing event goers.
Vendors came from around the region to feature arts and crafts that were available for purchase. “We came down from Rhinelander for this event and will definitely be interested in doing this again next year,” said Chris Kott, owner of Up North Baskets and Etc., not long after the event had started. “So far we are very pleased.”
Other vendors sold everything from “crazy pens” to decorative drink tumblers. “A little something for everybody,” said another vendor.
The lines at the food trucks were steady all day long as vendors hustled to keep up with their customer orders. “I enter as many of these events as I can throughout the year,” said Jeff “Fries” Felzkowski, owner of Little Devil Mini Donuts from Tomahawk. “Sales have been good so far,” he said when asked early in the day.
Food lovers had many options to choose from, including gyros, steak sandwiches, brats, burgers, chicken, and much more.
“We all ordered gyros, and they are very good,” said event-goer Steve of Merrill who asked we just use his first name. “[And] the pricing is commensurate with the portion sizing,” he said.
Families had many options to choose from with offerings that appealed to both adults and children. “We both had pork sliders and brisket, while our kids had cheese curds and fresh-squeezed lemonade,” said Billy Haight and Brittany Walker from Merrill. “The sliders were tender and delicious, while the brisket was juicy and was very good. Our kids just loved the fresh-squeezed lemonade. It was a great family day!” Walker said.
“My family tried a variety of items from different food vendors, and they were all excellent,” said Merrill Mayor Steve Hass. “The mini doughnuts were my downfall; there is nothing like a hot doughnut.” He said he also bought a pie to take home and his family enjoyed that on Sunday. “That was excellent also.”
Former Green Bay Packer linebacker Michael Hunt and his wife, Paula, were among the event attendees and made several stops throughout the day at the booths and food trucks around the Merrill Festival Grounds. “We both had a smashburger; that was very good,” Paula said. “We also enjoyed The Sawmill truck that was serving beverages, and everything seems to be a great value. Merrill is doing a great thing.”
The adult beverage area was definitely a popular area, especially later in the day with the addition of live music.
“This event exceeded my expectation by four times,” said Mayor Hass, who had originally proposed the idea as a way to utilize the Merrill Festival Grounds/Fairgrounds more. “For a first-time event, we did not know what to expect. … The variety of vendors that participated was amazing, from the food choices to the crafters.”
Hass said he estimated 3,000 people attended throughout the day. “We didn’t have a way of counting the people,” he said, “[but] the food lines were long and stayed long throughout the day.”
“People from all around the area came to this event, and it shows that advertising pays off,” he said. “The live remotes were great from the radio stations, and the ads in the Foto News really worked for us. We also used our Marketing and Communications Committee to authorize additional marketing efforts. All of this helped make this event great.”
“This will definitely be an annual event,” Hass said. And event organizers see ways they can make it even bigger and better for 2025. “We will be looking at ways to make it run smoother next year. We will evaluate what worked well and what needs improvement. But overall, this was a fabulous event.”
“The sponsors deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “This was the first time, and they all jumped on board to make this event happen. We couldn’t do it without their support.”
“Social media specialist, Hallie Savall, took this idea and ran with it and deserves a lot of credit,” Hass said. “She went above and beyond, and so did her family. They worked super hard to make this event a success.”
The Mayor, too, worked the event, arriving at 8 a.m. and working until 7 p.m., pitching in with the nitty gritty work, from selling wrist bands to changing paper towel rolls and hauling garbage carts. “I also want to thank the City staff for helping out and the volunteers from the Chamber, Incredible Bank, and the Fair Board,” Hass said.

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