By Ashley FILIPEK
For many, Sunland-Tujunga has been thought of as a sleeper town where people don’t really venture out into the streets on weeknights. Well, thanks to the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce that has started to change.
Every Wednesday night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. starting in June, 30 food trucks of all varieties line up to park along Foothill Boulevard between McVine and Oro Vista avenues.
Sonia Tatulian, the president of the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce, said the project was part of the chamber’s outreach efforts.
“We, as the Chamber, wanted to do something to bring more life to the community. We saw what good it did [for] the Chatsworth community,” she said. Chatsworth has been hosting food truck nights in its community for some time, and when the crowds started to number around 10,000, organizers knew they needed to scale things back. The Sunland-Tujunga chamber was approached with the opportunity to pick up the Wednesday food truck night, which members voted on and approved.
Phil Tabbi, who is part of the Food Truck Committee branch of the chamber, said that the weekly event has seen success in getting people out and about.
“[I’ve had people tell me], ‘If it wasn’t for Wednesday nights here at the trucks, I’d be sitting on my butt, eating Fritos, and watching TV. You got me out of my chair and I’m here,’” Tabbi relayed.
And they have been at every Wednesday night event since it started. People drive from Montrose, La Crescenta, La Cañada, Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Encino, Woodland Hills and Santa Clarita just to be out, see what’s going on, and enjoy the trucks.
Many chamber members are strongly united on the goals driving this event. The chamber has set a fee for the trucks to be there, and all of it goes back into the community. Half of the fee is used for cleanup immediately after the trucks leave, one quarter goes to a weekly raffle that gives attendees the chance to win a $25 gift card to the place of their choosing in the Sunland-Tujunga zip code, and the final quarter of the fee is given to a local children’s charity of the chamber’s choice. Additionally, Tabbi said that members of the chamber “are seeing this largely as an opportunity to showcase the local businesses, so they tend to pick a ‘brick and mortar’ on Wednesday nights that they can support.”
Despite the chamber choosing to eat elsewhere, there is no shortage of appetizing options from the 30 available trucks. Palazzo Gelato, Crepe ‘N Around, Papa Juan’s Fish Tacos, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Patty Wagon and Cousin’s Maine Lobster are just a few of the assortment of trucks on-site.
“We’re buying a little bit from everybody because it’s a good way to try them,” said Sato Artinian of Sunland. “This is a great thing to do because it brings people together.”
When asked what his favorite truck was so far, Aram Tatulian answered, “They all are! I’ll put it this way – I haven’t found a bad truck yet.”
As of Aug. 1, diners are also treated to a showing of classic cars parked on the lot of the Star Car Wash. The Early Rodders of La Crescenta and La Cañada put their cars on display, and many members of the community are encouraged to bring their classic cars or motorcycles to show them off.
Not everyone is pleased with this weekly event, however. While many local businesses are supportive of Food in the Foothills, a handful of the mainstay businesses see this event as having a negative impact on their income. The chamber has done its best to ease tensions by using the night to showcase local businesses and by re-investing the fees paid by the trucks back into the community.
One of the key things that keep people returning week after week is the atmosphere of comfort and safety that exists. Several police officers patrol the area, and often get out of their vehicles to partake in all of the food truck fun as well.
“People feel so secure that they can walk through the town,” Tabbi said. “On a regular basis, they don’t walk through the streets. You come up here on any other weekday and no one is walking on the sidewalks, but here they can because they feel [there’s] safety in numbers.”
Jana Wunderlich, who is also on the Food Truck Committee, added, “It is so rewarding to see that people feel comfortable walking around at night.”
Just as rewarding is hearing attendees, like Mark Seigel of Tujunga, describe his excitement for a much needed social event in the area, especially when the food is “phenomenally delicious.”