Philadelphia, PA – “One wit, one without.” That’s a cheesesteak with onions or without onions. If you don’t know the popular Philly language when ordering, it’s probable that your really not a aficionado of the famed sandwich. But who said you had to be? On Saturday, in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field in South Philly, everybody was invited to sample the famed steak. Fans flooded in for the first ever Cheesesteak Festival – complements of the city of Philadelphia, and of course its sponsors that hosted the event.
It was long overdue and people came out in droves for the big event. Some 25,000 folks from as far away as New York, yes I said New York, came down to be part of the historic day and sample the delectable and symbolic sandwich Philly is so famous for. More than 60 businesses, from around the metropolitan area that sell steaks showed up to show off their own version.
Greek owned, Astra Foods of Upper Darby played a key role as one of the big corporate sponsor of the day. Their name was on everything from banners to T-shirts. They even had a big 18 wheel truck that anchored arguably the highlight of the day-the 1st ever Cheesesteak eating contest.
15 contestants participated in the 10 minute contest that awarded a $3000 dollar prize. The winner chowed down on ten cheesesteaks and took home the crown for the year. One of the participants was Steve Voudouris, who represented Astra. Voudouris, made sure Astra Foods name was visible, by wearing a basketball uniform with their name splashed all over it. A small crowd of Greek-American fans yelled on as Voudouris attempted to muster down a plate full of cheesesteaks.
With tickets in hand, steak lovers went from booth to truck and gobbled down cheesesteak samples from their favorite vendors and other famed steak shops. Long lines formed throughout the parking lot, but none longer than the one at Astra Foods, where a team of more than 20 kicked out samples of steak after steak for hours. The team from Astra had shown up early and prepared well before the lunchtime bell rang. Family members, office employees and sales folks all participated, making it a successful first time event and insuring they get their brand out.
Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies and Original Philly Cheesesteak Co , two Greek owned Cheesesteak businesses were also present, adding to the Greek presence. Long lines formed around both and kept their folks working through the afternoon as well. Proprietor and spokesperson of Dalessandro’s, Steve Kotridis, said on his facebook page that they sold out.
By the end of the day, having been surrounded by cheesesteaks, I wonder what all these folks will be ordering for dinner?