Tara Bedei is a person who can be trusted with a secret, and now that secret is out.
The chairperson of the Streator Walldogs has known for a little while now that Portillo's, the fast-casual chain known for Chicago-style favorites, is getting ready to hit the road again with Streator being its first stop.
Earlier this year, the chain asked fans across the country to vote to bring the Beef Bus to their hometowns. After receiving more than 50,000 votes from fans across the U.S., the results have been tallied: The Beef Bus is headed to Streator.
From Oct. 22-25, the Beef Bus will serve guests in Streator City Park favorites such as Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, cheese fries and beverages from noon to 8 p.m., while supplies last.
And now, the visit will be a part of a smaller version of the Food Truck Festival, an event put on by the Streator Walldogs but cancelled this year due to the pandemic. According to Tara Bedei, chairperson of the Walldogs, one of its members heard about the Portillo's sweepstakes and the group decided if it could win, it would have been a nice addition to their annual festival.
Bedei learned that the voting process was very close, that Streator had been neck-and-neck, changing the lead with Peach Tree City, Ga., before two cities in Colorado also became contenders.
However, at the deadline it was Streator by a nose.
The Beef Bus was originally scheduled to make its arrival in early May, when the Food Truck Festival was originally scheduled, but the visit and the fest were cancelled due to the pandemic. The Portillo's event was rescheduled for August, but was again postponed.
A month ago, the new plan was brought to life.
"Our world has changed so much since March, it's not surprising that this might not have still been in people's minds. In fact, we were thinking it might be next year, with the way everything is going," she said, "but we did get the call. That's good news for us. ...
"We felt that with so many people coming to Streator for Portillo's that we'd invite some of the local trucks that would have been in our Food Truck Festival to come out and join the fun. It won't be as large as our festival, but there will be additional trucks there on the days that the Beef Bus will be there."
The trucks joining Portillo's during the Beef Bus visit will be Auntie Ann's Pretzels on Thursday, Cruisin' Concessions and the Olive Branch on Friday, the Olive Branch on Saturday, and Cruisin' Concessions on Sunday. Bedei said that it's likely there will be other trucks added, and those announcements will be added to the Walldogs website.
There will be safety measures in force for all businesses and customers who attend the event.
Beef Bus team members will wear face masks and facial coverings are required for guests in line as well. Portillo’s will mark six-foot distances in the line, so waiting guests can maintain proper social distancing. And the Beef Bus will have sanitizing stations with hand sanitizer accessible to guests.
Bedei feels the mini-festival could be the spark for people from all over the area to come spend the day in Streator.
"Streator people will be there, no doubt, but anyone who travels to Streator for this event, we encourage them to make it a day, go to the food trucks, go to Spring Lake Park, visit the shops around town and maybe visit a local restaurant for dinner later in the day," Bedei said. "Those that haven't been here in a while will see some of the big changes and improvements around town.
"It's a great opportunity for people to get out of the house and enjoy the day."