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Riverfest food vendors prepare for day two of festival

By Ashley Nerbovig

This article was published May 24, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.

robert-mitchell-who-has-worked-for-nuccis-concessions-for-over-20-years-prepares-a-corn-dog-for-riverfest-patrons-on-saturday-the-annual-festival-continues-through-monday-night

Robert Mitchell, who has worked for Nucci's Concessions for over 20 years, prepares a corn dog for Riverfest patrons on Saturday. The annual festival continues through Monday night.

Riverfest food vendors prepare for day two of festival

Food vendors from all over the United States prepared for the second day of the 37th annual Riverfest on Saturday. The festival continues through Sunday. (By Lisa Burnett)
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The hungry hordes who will descend on Riverfest this weekend will have the opportunity to try food from restaurants based in New York and North Dakota.

The festival has 19 vendors packed together, peddling tastes as different as funnel cake and traditional Caribbean food.

Taste of the Caribbean has come one of the farthest distances, originally based in New York. Owner Courtney Petgrave said his wife, who is originally from the South, has bragged about the festival every year. Petgrave finally decided to make the 20-hour trek down to Little Rock this year.

The stand did pretty well Friday night, but its owners expect to sell even more food during Saturday and Sunday, Petgrave said. Their goal is to head back to New York with empty trucks. While Petgrave brought the majority of food down with him, he said, a few of the dishes feature local fish to give the food that "down-South flavor."

The traditional tastes of the South are also represented by Riverside Catering, which traveled up from Louisiana and brought with it everything from frog legs to deep-fried banana pudding. Holly Crisco, who works for Riverside Catering, said people won't find crawfish or frog legs this big anywhere else. Not only that, the crawfish will be shipped in fresh every day. Crisco expects it won't be long before the stand runs out of the alligator kabobs they packed.

Jeff Wilson, co-owner of Saint Lucia, a traditional Greek restaurant, said he first heard about Riverfest through word-of-mouth from other vendors. He has been coming from North Dakota for 15 years, and now his booth sits in the middle of a row of vendors.

"I wasn't always in this great location," Wilson said. "New vendors start at the end and work their way in."

Wilson said Riverfest is less about promoting his restaurant and more about generating profits. Most vendors prefer events like Riverfest that have fewer food stands, he said, because fewer vendors mean more profit potential per vendor.

"It's not about diversity," Wilson said. "The more stands, the smaller the piece of the pie the vendors get."

But for local vendors like Jim Antonucci from Hot Springs, Riverfest is a great place to promote his signature corn dogs. Mostly he enjoys seeing the other vendors, though. Antonucci has attended the festival for 25 years.

"I like the insanity," he said.

Antonucci goes as far as west as New Mexico and as far north as Michigan with his food stand.

Antonucci takes a lot of pride in being able to serve customers in six seconds and in the fact that his corn dogs are made from all their own mixes.

"Our corn dogs taste identical to how they tasted 25 years ago," Antonucci said.

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