Athletes representing 59 different college conferences and over 60 different countries will compete in 318 combined running and field events at the Penn Relays.
But outnumbering the many runners hungry to win this week will be the number of people just wanting to eat on the run.
And that’s where the many food trucks on campus come in handy. Every year during the Penn Relays, many carts in close proximity to Franklin Field get a boost in their business from the influx of spectators and athletes that the Relays bring to campus.
One of the closest trucks to the action is Frida’s, located at 33rd and Walnut streets.
For these few days, Demetri Badekas of Frida’s says that many Caribbean track and field athletes and fans bring a curiosity about American food.
“The people that come from Jamaica, they come here, they want to get a cheesesteak,” Badekas said. “They don’t usually know what goes on cheesesteaks, so they put whatever looks good. The regular customers that come here daily know what they want on them, but then the people that come from Jamaica put different things on it that you wouldn’t see people normally put on theirs.”
Badekas said Frida’s sees about 100 people per day during the Relays Carnival.
Caribbean food truck GiGi’s and Big R on 38th and Spruce streets hits home for many Caribbean spectators and athletes that would rather stick to their native eats, despite its farther distance from the Relays.
“It helps [our business],” Tony Fitzgerald of GiGi’s and Big R said. “We sell a lot of Caribbean food. We get young kids in running uniforms and they tell me they’ve never been here before, since they come from all over.”
Food producer and distributor Grace Foods will also be offering a range of Caribbean foods once again in the Penn Carnival Village, in its Caribbean oasis outside Franklin Field. The Penn Carnival Village will go a long way toward making the lines shorter at many local food carts, offering Caribbean food and, as always, the traditional American stadium selections of hamburgers and hot dogs.
Many food trucks, though, will still have their regulars.
“Some people come here every year for my fruit,” 34th and Walnut Fruit Truck’s Don Ly said. “People from New York and Boston come every year and say, ‘I missed you!’ It goes nuts.”
With such a frenzy, the food carts, even more so than the event’s athletes, can ill afford to have an off day.
“You dread it because with so many people it gets all hectic,” Badekas said. “But for a few days, it’s not that bad.”
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