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Food trucks popular at UM baseball stadium

Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and a YoknapaTaco?

Attend one of the Ole Miss ballgames, and you now have that option.

Jake Sessums, 33, owner of the YoknapaTaco food truck said he was contacted this season by Centerplate, the food subcontractor for university sporting events, about possible interest in setting up his food truck in right field for Ole Miss baseball games.

“After some negotiations, we began setting up for games when we could and were charged with finding other trucks that may be interested in the same thing,” he said.

“It has been a unique experience that we hope to continue to evolve going into football and next baseball season. I think the food truck culture provides a unique option for food services at Ole Miss sporting events that few others in the SEC are doing.”

Sessum said his food truck sets up in right field behind the student section of the baseball stadium, but others in the stadium are allowed to walk out and see their offerings.

“The overall response has been positive,” Sessums said. “It has been great exposure for us and others that set up out there. It is obviously an ongoing process that we will continue to tweak over time so that we are able to provide the best possible experience for our fans and fans of Ole Miss alike.”

Sessums said they vary their offerings at games, but most people enjoy the food truck’s nachos and burritos with multiple options.

The new opportunity has been good exposure, Sessums said.

“The sales volume can vary drastically from game to game, and also depending on the time of the game,” Sessums said, “but it has allowed us to peak the interest of fans sitting in the stands that see us out there and wonder what is going on. Plus, we love the Rebs, and any chance to help support the guys on the field in any way is something we are really into.”

This weekend, they were the only business on the field on Friday, but Smoke Shop Oxford joined them Saturday and Sunday. They were previously joined by the Oxford business Sunday’s Best, Winona’s Small Time Eats, and Oxford’s Tin Can Photobooth.

Sessums said they started YoknapaTaco in the fall of 2015 as a way to create new and exciting food options for the Oxford area and fill holes they saw in the market, specifically the lack of late night food.

“The concept and execution has been a collaborative effort involving many of my friends and family,” Sessums said. “The truck logo was designed by local artist Lauren Dayan and my father, Kim Sessums, also an artist, helped with the truck design. We spent much of the fall trying new things and developing the brand and market.”

Sessums said they change the menu three times a year. Menus are created by local chef John Stokes, Sessum’s partner in a new restaurant called Tarasque Cucina.

“The name of the truck comes from a play off of the fictional county that William Faulkner wrote about, Yoknapatawpha County,” Sessums said. “The general idea was to create a unique and fun food truck brand that encouraged others to take the plunge as well.”

Sessums said he spent many months working with the city, and specifically the assistant city planner, developing the current food truck ordinance so others would have a guideline on what it takes to start your own food truck business.

“In addition to the truck, we immediately saw the need for commissary space (essentially a home base for truck operations) called The Hick Wallflower,” he said. “We currently have a number of small catering and other food businesses that use our commissary, as well as Tarasque Cucina, which currently runs takeout and delivery service of ‘old world comfort food’ (specifically pastas currently) out of the front restaurant space.”

As The Hick Wallflower progresses this summer, Sessums said they hope to add other producers, as well as develop a more “event coordinating” aspect to what they do.

“Focusing on activity-based events for both the community and student body population, you will see new fun events popping up over the summer that feature food trucks and activity-based events for all to enjoy,” he said.

The food truck currently runs lunch six days a week and late night on the Square Thursday through Saturday nights until about 30 minutes after the bars close.

“We hope to continue to develop our schedule in a way that better services the community and university,” he said. “We have recently acquired special exemption permits to serve at local housing developments and hope to use our event coordinating arm to host unique events at pools and facilities offered by places like Highland Square, The Hub and The Connection.”

Sessums said their long-term goal is to continue to develop the food truck industry in Oxford and around the state of Mississippi.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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