Lines formed quickly for El Premio Mayor, stretching 10 deep when the gates first opened Friday.
Others had only one or two people in front of their taco trucks at the start.
The scene certainly would change throughout the night, as more and more people packed Chukchansi Park and surrounded each and every vendor for the seventh annual Taco Truck Throwdown.
And it would turn out the early signs that favored unanimous two-time defending Throwdown champ El Premio Mayor didn’t match the judges’ opinions.
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In an upset, of sorts, El Mexicano was named this year’s winner.
The announcement was made on the field during the seventh inning of the Fresno Grizzlies’ 4-2 win against the New Orleans Baby Cakes, drawing a roar from the announced crowd of 12,382.
“My heart is so full of happiness,” said Jovita Camacho, manager of El Mexicano. “My staff works so hard to make sure our food is great. Our salsa is great. Our food is fresh. All of our ingredients are local.
“We try to make sure everybody loves our tacos.”
El Mexicano periodically serves food at Grizzlies games.
Whether that helped or hurt was up for debate.
Voting for the People’s Choice Award, meanwhile, runs through Saturday, with the event a two-day affair for the first time.
From what I saw tonight, everything looked good. Everyone seemed to have a good time. I just want everyone to come away happy.
Mike Osegueda, co-founder of the Taco Truck Throwdown
“From what I saw tonight, everything looked good,” said Mike Osegueda, the Throwdown’s co-founder. “Everyone seemed to have a good time.”
Regardless who was the official champ, it appeared everyone still came out a winner.
Fans seemed content with the food and atmosphere. Vendors were eager to satisfy customers’ cravings.
“We always wanted to be part of it,” said Hector Ortega, owner of the truck called Super Taco and a first-time participant. “I know it’s a very successful event.
“Not too many people know us. But we’re up to the challenge.”
The popularity of the Taco Truck Throwdown has grown so much, even NBA player and Fresno native Robin Lopez could no longer resist and came out to the event Friday for the first time.
The popularity of the Taco Truck Throwdown has grown so much, even NBA player and Fresno native Robin Lopez could no longer resist.
“Living in Fresno, you hear a lot about it,” Lopez said. “It’s a lot of fun. Getting to hang out with my guys and relax.
“I’m excited. It’s a really good atmosphere.”
Tony Aguillon, of Tacos Boys, certainly came prepared for Fresno’s most popular event of the summer.
Having participated in the Throwdown for three years, Aguillon said he knew to bring 400 pounds of meat, including 200 pounds of carne asada.
“It’d be good if we won,” Aguillon said. “We took fourth out of 34 trucks last year.
“But we like meeting the people. They’re the ones who told us, ‘Come out again.’ So we did.”
El Premio Mayor was hoping history and luck was on its side.
And maybe it still is with the People’s Choice Award up for grabs.
But while some vendors had colorful or otherwise fancy trucks, El Premio Mayor kept its trailer simple.
It was about half the size of others, with just a sign in the front. People were lined up late into the night.
“This trailer is sentimental to us,” said Bianca Loza, owner of El Premio Mayor. “It’s our lucky truck and means a lot to us.
“There’s a lot of great trucks out this year. It’s tough competition.”
Added the manager of El Mexicano: “This was just the best. It was hard work. I just hope everyone had a great time.”
Taco Truck Throwdown
Saturday: 2 p.m. to midnight at Chukchansi Park
Highlights: World Taco Eating Championship featuring Joey Chestnut, 6 p.m.; live music
Food: Taco trucks, of course! Fan vote concludes Saturday
Cost: $9; children 10 and younger free