Philly's never had a blowout cheesesteak festival.
We've had ice-cream fests, bacon fests, Burger Brawls, (Buffalo) Wing Bowls, more food-truck events than you can count and, this summer for the first time, a SausageFest. But after 85 years, our signature edible hasn't gotten its due, festival-wise.
We have to wait till next Saturday.
On Oct. 24, a Linc parking lot will host the city's first big-deal, bona fide Cheesesteak Fest, thanks to four very sharp-dressed event-planner dudes.
Kevin Baxter, a New Yorker by birth and Philadelphian by choice, proposed the idea. He grew up watching Nathan's do its hot-dog thing on TV and said, "I couldn't believe Philly didn't do something like that." With cheesesteaks, of course.
Fellow fest organizer Mike Wink, who's worked in Stephen Starr's catering division, added, "I don't know why we don't have one. But I'm glad we're the first to do it."
Broomall father-and-son duo David Feldman Sr. and Jr. are the other two planners. At first, "We thought it would be pretty small, anticipated a 5,000 attendance," said Feldman Sr., a boxer-turned-promoter and younger brother to notorious celebrity-fight promoter Damon Feldman.
The more the foursome thought about it, the bigger Cheesesteak Fest grew.
"We came up with 60 of the best cheesesteak vendors in and around the city and a cheesesteak-eating competition, the most cheesesteaks you can eat in five minutes," said Feldman Sr. They persuaded Frank Olivieri Jr., of Pat's; Geno Vento, of Geno's; and Tony Luke Jr., of, well, you know, to bring their A-games. (Told them it wasn't a contest, so the big guys wouldn't fear losing a shred of cred.)
They asked the steak makers to be ready to chop their hoagie-size sammies into 1.5-inch pieces.
They enlisted other operations to bring cheesesteak eggrolls, empanadas, pierogi, dumplings, soup, popcorn, vegan cheesesteaks and gluten-free cheesesteaks. They put out a call for competitive eaters.
They booked live music: the Eagles Pep Band, Celtic rockers Blackthorne, party rockers Stella Mojo and EDM-hip-hop cover dudes Go Go Gadget. They reserved the Linc's Lot K, the one with the solar panels. They hired a guy to dress like a mascot they created, Cheesy the Cheesesteak.
The idea: Attract families. Kids 5 and under enter free; ages 6 to 12, $10. A $40 adult ticket buys 20 samples to share or scarf down solo. Additional sample vouchers are five for $10.
As of press time, the guys estimated 20,000 would attend.
"We want the Wing Bowl hype on it, but it's not the beer drinking. It's not the girls," said Feldman Sr. (There will, however, be beer available for sale.) "We want this to be family-oriented."
World heavyweight champ Larry Holmes plans to attend. Regional marketing heavyweight Visit Philadelphia will sponsor the festival's main event.
The fest's highly anticipated highlight: an attempt to right the city's second-most-outrageous culinary wrong. The organizers want to reclaim the record for the world's largest cheesesteak for Philadelphia.
On Dec. 27, 1998, during an especially terrible Eagles season, 20 local shops built a 365-foot, 7-inch steak outside Veterans Stadium. On July 1, 2011, Frankie's South Philly Cheesesteaks outdid them by going solo on a 426-footer.
Frankie's South Philly Cheesesteaks is not in South Philly, or even in the tristate area. It's in Tucson, Ariz.
Frankie's owner grew up at 3rd and Porter. He uses Amoroso's for his rolls, but his menu includes green-bean fries with cucumber wasabi sauce.
Christopher Bruce, the guy who wears the Cheesy costume, called the situation "absurd."
Steve Iliescu, of Steve's Prince of Steaks, helped create the massive steak of '98. He called his back-in-the-day contribution "the best of the biggest," adding, in his signature patter, "Don't make a mistake and be fooled by a fake. I am the true Prince of Steaks."
He and his team will helm the record-breaking effort. He said his creation will be 500 feet long. Feldman and Co. said they'd settle for 450. Amoroso's will contribute the bread, which will be fused together - and won't need to be shipped cross country.
The dough will hold 500 to 600 pounds of rib-eye, half Whiz, half Steve's American cheese sauce, half wit', half witout.
"We will probably start to assemble it somewhere around 12:15, and should be finished around 2 o'clock when we set the record," said Iliescu. Guests who'd like to sample the steak must make a contribution to the event's charities, Alex's Lemonade Stand and the Darren Daulton Foundation.
"Those who would like to have a bite of the biggest should put their hand in their pocket," said Iliescu.
Loosening their belts would be a good idea, too.
Cheesesteak Fest, Lot K of Lincoln Financial Field, One Lincoln Financial Way, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 24, $20 "wit out" (admission only), $40 "wit" (admission, 10 cheesesteak sample vouchers and T-shirt), $10 ages 6-12, free under 6 (advanced tickets available at the door for kids; cheesesteak vouchers five for $10 on-site), cheesesteakfest.com.
On Twitter: @LaMcCutch