BILLINGS — Food trucks from Montana and Wyoming parked and battled it out for awards at the third Food Truck Battle on the Yellowstone on Saturday at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Billings,
The event was organized by the Breakfast Exchange Club of Billings and is back this year after a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The food truck scene is just huge lately. We have 27 trucks here today. We had five that came from Wyoming. That was cool. Maybe there were some new trucks that people haven’t tried before that they can try out for the first time," said Rene Critelli, lead event organizer and member of the Breakfast Exchange Club of Billings.
The popular event serves as a fundraiser, so the Exchange Club can turn around and donate the money back to charity.
This year, money raised from the gate fees and 10 percent of each food truck's sales will benefit Veterans Matter, Critelli said. The nonprofit group seeks to find homeless veterans in Montana a place to live.
"With the money that we made in 2019, we made $25,000 and we were able to start a chapter of Veterans Matter. Specifically that money is funneled towards homeless veterans in Montana. The bulk of our money from this event is going to stay with Veterans Matter, then we're going to have some of it that will also stay with other local veterans nonprofits," Critelli said.
Critelli said the turnout was great this year and the Exchange Club might pass their monetary average of $25,000 a year.
“I expect at least the attendance from years past, if not more. We’re prepared for more, hope the trucks are prepared for more too," Critelli said.
Along with donating money to charity, the event is a competition to see which food truck serves it up the best. Critelli said each truck enters a category and the winners were decided by a panel of five local judges.
The big competition, however, is always for the judge's overall choice and the people's choice awards, Critelli said. The winners of each award get a commemorative cutting board, are allotted $500 to give to the charity of their choice and perhaps most importantly: bragging rights.
“Mostly it’s bragging rights, I think. Montana Melt is the one that won two years ago and he’s gotten a lot of mileage out of that. So he’s really wanting to keep his title," Critelli said with a laugh.
The people's choice award was decided by attendees dropping votes into a jar on their favorite truck's counter.
With the event benefiting an organization that helps local veterans, Critelli said the venue at the Armed Forces Reserve Center couldn't have been better.
“It just goes along with our mission and our theme. They’re not charging us anything to be out here. They want to do more community outreach. So this just fit in with what they wanted to do with the community as well," Critelli said.
For the second year in a row Mia's Lumpia won the people's choice award. And The Corn Dog Company took home the prize of judge's choice. Click here to view photos of the winners.