Hungry revelers at the Freakfest party on State Street may end up waiting in longer lines at the event's food court this year. Only six food carts will be vending in Library Mall on Saturday night, compared to well over a dozen that set up shop last year. And if you're looking for things like sushi or sandwiches, you'll need to venture back into the melee.
The six vendors serving eats at Freakfest are heavily weighted towards hot dogs and smoothies. They are: Mad Dog's (a hot dog shop that also operates out of a Henry Street storefront); Silky's (also hot dogs); Big Red's (again, hot dogs); Sabores Latinos (burritos); I'm Here (juice and smoothies); and Fresh Cool Drinks (smoothies). All will be located on the UW Library Mall, adjacent to Lake Street and the main Freakfest entrance, where the crowds will be thick and the overhead stadium lights bright.
Madison street vending coordinator Warren Hansen explains the changes. "Last year we weren't sure how to go, so we invited a slew of vendors," he says. "Two or three were no shows, one or two were uninvited, and it still turned out that there were too many." What they found was that vendors closer to State Street did better business than those on the campus end of Library Mall, and that those selling simple fare like hot dogs sold more than regular daytime carts that specialize in more international cheap eats.
"I decided to keep it simple this year, and I invited vendors that have simple menus and typically work at night in the downtown area so they wouldn't have to do anything special," explains Hansen. "I also invited some juice and smoothies carts I knew would say yes." The three hot dog shops are also licensed to vend at UW football games, and are experienced in catering to large crowds, he notes. All six will need to be in place by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, and will remain open as long as they have food to sell or otherwise decide to shut down.
"I just wanted to pare it down so nobody is wasting their time," says Hansen. "I'm hoping it goes great for all of them so we can stop thinking about downsizing and maybe expand it in the future."
Ultimately this scaling back may mean little to most of the revelers. After all, State Street itself continues down the path of becoming a giant food court itself, and there will be plenty of burritos, sandwiches, and various other eats available in the heart of the party.