At the close of summer, over the last weekend of August, Hey Stamford! hosted its second annual Food Festival at Mill River Park. It featured more than forty food trucks and vendors, as well as “Party in the Park” and “Country Rocks the Park” evening concerts on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. As a Stamford native, I loved seeing my city represented as the eclectic community that it truly is. From the food trucks and the beer gardens to the live bands and the family-friendly Fairfield Country Bank Kids Zone, complete with a bouncy house, face painters, and balloon twisters, the event was a fun. Everyone in the venue came together to have a good time. Even the weather cooperated.
The event was a feast for the senses. As I arrived at the park, strangers might have mistaken my expression for that of Wile. E Coyote spotting the Road Runner, with eyes bulging out of their sockets. I didn’t know if I should head right, left, or to infinity and beyond for all of the brightly colored food trucks, beer tents and lit stage. My stomach also was in a tizzy (my boyfriend jokes that my eyes are bigger than my stomach and now I know why). I bounced back and forth from every option. Pulled pork or donuts? Greek or Mexican fusion? Ultimately, my friend and I decided on Nosh Hound for some unbelievably good, loaded tater tots; Donut Crazy for their zany selections; and DrewbaQ for what they call a smokin’ brisket and mac and cheese filled sammie. We also indulged in one (OK, maybe two) Half Full Peach Wheat brews that were dog-days-of-summer delicious. If I could have, I would have eaten more.
The highlight of the evening, though, was the entertainment. Hey Stamford!delivered by bringing us millennial gold: mega-viral and meme sensation Mason Ramsey, also known as Lil’ Hank Williams, or the “Yodeling Kid.” This eleven-year-old Walmart star, who’s made appearances this summer in festivals like Coachella, and has been seen hanging around with Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes and Ellen DeGeneres, donned a white cowboy hat (which he tipped in almost choreographed flourish every time he finished a song), knee-high cowboy boots, and a snazzy white shirt with red trimming. His setlist was short and sweet, consisting of his internet-hit “Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams and his original song, “Famous,” to name a few. Fans ate it up, and though I wouldn’t consider myself a country music fan, I couldn’t help but feel like one, joining everyone with our cell phones held up to film his set, which is telling of a digital-age megastar who found fame after being filmed at a Walmart. Dylan Scott, the headliner that night, had a tough act to follow. It was a great time.
After all the trucks had packed up and driven away, and the venue was restored once again as a jogger’s paradise, I reached out to PJ Kennedy, Hey Stamford! founder and longtime Stamford-resident, who dished about the weekend’s success, future plans for the festival, and more:
How it came together: “This was a joint effort between Hey Stamford! and Ilario Altamura & Ross Atamian of Parachute Concerts…This was the culmination of months of planning and we are so thrilled and excited with the turnout of the 2nd Annual Hey Stamford! Food Festival! We hosted close to 10,000 attendees over two days in Mill River Park and are blown away by the response we’ve received from the community.”
On “Walmart Yodeler” Mason Ramsey: “The energy and enthusiasm that Mason Ramsey brought with him was amazing to see and we were so happy he was able to join us in his only Connecticut appearance. We presented Mason with a pair of boots on behalf of our Country Rocks the Park sponsor Justin Boots, and to see how excited Mason was really cool. Mason publicly comparing his experience at The Hey Stamford! Food Festival to his experience at Coachella was surreal to hear.”
On the importance of community: “From a community standpoint, our goal with the event is really to highlight the best of Stamford and bring to life what we talk about within the pages of Hey Stamford! on a regular basis. One way we like to give back to the community is by donating tickets to local nonprofits and charities. The organizations then have an opportunity to sell tickets and keep 100 percent of the proceeds.”
Big plans for next year: “We had forty-plus of the top food trucks and vendors in our area in one central location over two-days; twenty-plus per day, which was an increase in food vendors from the twelve we showcased in our single event in 2017. The response has been tremendous, and we look forward to growing and also bringing more great events like this to Stamford.”