Back in March, Kelly Violini, CEO at the Monterey County Fairground and Fairground Exhibit Representative, Lauren Heath contacted us with an idea that, in order to successfully execute, would require some creative integrated social media marketing and advertising, print, video, as well as an aggressive PR strategy. With no social media presence – no Facebook fan page, no Twitter account, and not even a website – Kelly and Lauren wanted to host Monterey’s first ever street food festival.

For us, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen or heard of before, and maybe that’s why Kelly and Lauren contacted us.

We met Kelly and Lauren earlier this year at the Western Fairs Association, Imagine 2012 Convention and Trade Show. Stitches ‘n Dishes was a new concept, then.

We launched The Dish! Magazine at the Imagination Ball, and introduced concepts of Social Media Marketing in the mobile foods industry to hundreds of professionals, “hungry” for some new ideas.

We sponsored Food Trucks at the Fairgrounds, presented by The Mobile Gourmet at the Alameda County Fairground in February with a fabulous turn-out, and Kelly and Lauren were there to enjoy the festivities.

They began to imagine the possibilities of hosting a street food festival in Monterey at the Monterey County Fairground. There was one challenge, though – there are virtually no food trucks operating in Monterey.

Kelly and Lauren reached out, and we began talking about creating a street food festival in a town that hadn’t seen one before.

Our first priority was taking the temperature of the vendors’ interest in participating in such an event. We set out a goal to assemble a stellar line-up of street chefs from around the Bay Area, along with a few local caterers and bakers. The responses were, to say the least, astounding.

This was the “green light” that Kelly and Lauren needed to make this event a reality. We began formulating a marketing strategy to not only promote the event, but to get people excited about street food in Monterey.

The strategy included signage on local highways, newspaper ads, press releases, a social media marketing campaign, and a television commercial.

Stitches ‘n Dishes provided the video footage for the TV commercial, and worked with Monterey County Fairground marketing consultants to create the social media marketing campaign.

A combination of traditional advertising, the television commercial, traditional press releases, social media press releases, and social networking created a buzz about the event that actually made me a little nervous.

Kelly and Lauren planned to limit the number of vendors at the street food festival, since it was a first of its kind in the area, after all, but we continued to see an increasing interest.

As event day quickly approached, Kelly and Lauren secured sponsored raffle prizes, and finalized the vendor line-up. With barely more than 100 Facebook fans, more than 4,000 people attended the first Monterey Street Food Festival on May 12, and the positive feedback continues to roll in.

“This was an exceptional first time event, and I was blown away by the positive response from the community,” said Lauren. “We had beautiful weather, great music and of course awesome food! All of the food vendors were a pleasure to work with and all offered quality products. I’m looking forward to more of these events.”

Immediately following the event, reports from vendors poured in. Several reported that it was a record-breaking day, and another said that it was not only his most lucrative event, but he also made three new connections for bookings in other events.

“The street food festival was definitely a first for many on the Monterey Peninsula,” said Kelly, who was clearly very enthusiastic about the prospect of future events. “The excitement brought out over 4,000 people on a beautiful sunny day! We are excited to plan our second event with more food choices and definitely a second bar!”

There is no doubt that the success of this event hinged on the marketing strategy. The area had never experienced a street food event before, let alone one at this particular venue.

Integrated marketing and advertising certainly played a key roll in the marketing strategy. The unique combination and integration of print, video and social media, as well as an aggressive PR strategy really stirred a buzz that ultimately resulted in outstanding results, and this event is certainly a testament that the quantity of fans and followers does not always equate to sales.

Follow the Monterey Street Food Festival on Facebook to stay up to date on their next event, as well as the vendors who made this event a reality:

Hapa SF

Voodoo Van
O’Mi Ninja
Seoul on Wheels
We Sushi
Boffo Cart
Apple Jacz (Local Cupcake Vendor)
Indian Gourmet (Local Vendor)
Spice It Up catering (Local Vendor)

During the event, guests were asked to vote for their favorites. Congratulations to ShackMobile and Hapa SF who tied in first place. The Monterey Street Food Festival is a perfect example of utilizing strong social media marketing techniques to draw the maximum number of attendees to an event. We can’t wait to see the next event, and what Kelly and Lauren have in store.

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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.