The 19th hole: Kingsmill brings food trucks to LPGA event

Staff writer

Just around the corner from the grandstands, ponds, spectators and golfers on the 18th hole of Kingsmill’s River Course is the 19th hole — the latest home of local food trucks and hungry patrons.

At the LPGA Pure Silk Championship at Kingsmill, food trucks have been feeding folks since Monday.

In previous years, the event’s guests would be fed by caterers. This year, tournament coordinator Lauren Hall aimed to provide visitors with the charm of a meal from one of James City County’s popular food trucks.

“We wanted to try something new and different,” Hall said. “There’s a better variety of food, and food trucks are obviously very popular right now.”

On Thursday, four trucks served up schnitzel, shrimp tacos and soft-shell crab cake sandwiches, among other treats.

For food truck owner and operator chef Jim Kennedy, the event presents an opportunity for local trucks to pay their bills and get ahead.

“It’s great for our survival,” Kennedy said. “The bigger events help us pay our bills.”

On Tuesday, a practice day for the professional golfers, Kennedy’s truck was the sole truck at the course and business was dead. About a dozen customers trickled in once he opened after 11:30 a.m., he said.

The no-cost days to visit the course while the LPGA is in town draw smaller crowds generally, but by Thursday, when the first round of competition began, business was good and customers were happy, Kennedy said.

At one table of food truck patrons, Scott Grafton sat with his friend, John Diehl. They’ve been coming to the tournament for years. They remember when they bought their lunch at the catered concession stands. Now they walk up to the truck with the style of food they want and have it made fresh right there.

“My first thought, it brings the local flavor, it kind of brings the community into Kingsmill,” Grafton said.

While Grafton and Diehl ate smoked chicken drumsticks and collard greens, Kingsmill employees Tracie Shepherd and Callie Adkins said the food trucks were a boon for the tournament.

“I live at food trucks, that’s sort of my thing,” Shepherd said.

“It makes it feel like home,” Adkins said.

The food truck business can be difficult — if it’s too hot, people won’t eat, Kennedy said. If it’s too rainy, people won’t come in the first place.

“The rain has killed us over the weekends,” Kennedy said. He and the other food trucks at Kingsmill aim for 300 to 400 customers in a workday if it can be done. Less than that and he could lose money based on product spoilage, labor and the lost money he could have made on the brewery circuit.

Nearly all local food trucks offer onsite catering for events, which can help reduce the risk operators take, according to Kennedy.

Lucrative venues are scarce and competition is fierce among food truck operators, Kennedy said.

But for now, on the 18th hole, there are golfers looking for a win. The four-day tournament goes through Sunday.

Just 100 feet away at the 19th hole, there are food trucks looking to turn a profit after a wet spring.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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