Sandwich stockpiles draw crowds to first St. Pete Grilled Cheese Fest

Sunday's grilled cheese festival brought food trucks and other vendors to a packed EDGE District courtyard.

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On Sunday, grilled cheese enthusiasts packed the cobblestone courtyard next to Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill. Bearing the heat and braving the rain, crowds sampled different variations of the classic sandwich to support a local charity, Wheels 4 Purple Hearts, at the inaugural St. Pete Grilled Cheese Festival.

Throughout the day, food trucks, restaurants and other vendors served up some of their staples, as well as re-engineered grilled cheese sandwiches.

Empamamas, a food truck based out of Tampa, served a grilled cheese encrusted with fried Cheez-Its (yes, you heard me right, and it's everything you ever wanted), while Trinity's Got Lobstah? featured a Maine lobster and harvarti grilled cheese on a New England roll.

The Buffalo Soldier (cheese, chicken, buffalo sauce) was among Mr. C's Grilled Cheese's offerings.

Carlynn Crosby

Other trucks putting their own spins on the sandwich sold out of menu items. The Bay area Mr. C's Grilled Cheese, with its line from one end of the courtyard to the other, offered renditions like The Buffalo Soldier with provolone, mozzarella, chicken and buffalo sauce until running out of its sandwich stockpile.

The mobile kitchen of Pete & Shorty's highlighted a jalapeño popper and a chipotle barbecue pork grilled cheese, which also sold out.

The festival's courtyard was full but comfortable, with tons of seating and tents to shield people from the heat and dark sky. When the rain did fall, Shevonne and the Bad Boys commemorated Prince with a rendition of "Purple Rain."

People took a break from all the cheese when Jack Thompson of Wheels 4 Purple Hearts took the stage, donating one of the organization's customized wheelchairs to Marine and Army Corps veteran Michael Fradera.

"I hope that it'll make his life a little bit easier and a little bit happier," Thompson said.

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