We all know the feeling of waking up late in the morning at a festival with a rumbling tummy caused by a late night of dancing and walking all of your calories away. When the granola bars and waterlogged fruit you brought just won’t satisfy your post-boogie-hunger, you head for the food vendors to get some grub. We couldn’t live without festival food vendors and bless them for working hard in the often blistering heat and feeding lines of hungry music fans. It is truly a work of passion and love, and Holly Smucker of Sassy Wraps runs her business motivated by her love of music and passion for feeding people with healthy options. We get to know Holly “Jolly Sassafrass” a little bit better and learn about her ups and downs in the festie food business!
When did you start your food vending business “Sassy Wraps”? What inspired the idea?
I have worked in a lot of different kitchens, small family owned and corporations. I have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to running a successful business. When I first started going to festivals in 2012 I noticed that there weren’t many choices for vegetarians, almost none for vegans, and not many healthy options among the food vendors. I had thought for some time on how I could be more involved in the festival community and after speaking with a few friends in 2015 I decided I wanted to give vending a try. When I first started out I had a business partner and we were known as “Smucker & Joachim Catering Services”. In 2018 I took things over and the business evolved into “Sassy Wraps”.
How did you come up with the name?
The name “Sassy Wraps” derived from my family and my nickname. Everyone in my family is extremely sassy and it’s always been a joke among us; we can make any statement sassy as hell. After attending festivals for a while I was given the nickname “Holly Jolly Sassafrass” because of that and the fact I always had a smile on my face and spread positive energy. When choosing a new name for my business it just felt right that sass be included and being that we sell wraps & smoothies I felt “Sassy Wraps” was the perfect fit. I also feel that sassy is a style of cooking at this point. You can definitely taste people’s intentions in the food they make and I like my food to have plenty of flavor with a little tang or kick to it.
How many events do you vend a year? Are they all musical events?
On average we do about 10 events a year, sometimes more. We have done mostly music festivals, predominately EDM & bluegrass, but have also set up at a brewery for the day, we’ve done an art exhibit opening, and have even catered a wedding.
What do you do when you aren’t vending at events?
Everyone on my team is a music lover so when we’re not vending we’re usually still out there attending different shows and festivals. It’s nice to have ones to go to for fun, but we definitely still scope out the food scene to see if it would be something we’d be interested in for the future. I like to keep busy so when we don’t have events I work at the SPCA in Winchester, I help other food vendors with their events, and in the off season I work at Sexi Mexi Burrito Bar. It’s important for us as a community to help each other out so we can all prosper together!
What are some of your favorite events that you’ve vended?
We love doing events at Sleepy Creek. Everyone is always so happy that we’re there and we’re greeted with open arms. We usually have family that see us pull in and will even come help us move equipment and set up our tent! We also love doing any event at Four Quarters Farm. It is by far my favorite venue and over the past 4 years we have established a beautiful relationship with the people that live there. It is so convenient to have running water, real bathrooms and showers, and a covered stage so the music can go on rain or shine.
What is your personal favorite event? What is your favorite band?
My favorite event to vend is Big Dub, which is a week-long EDM festival held at Four Quarters Farm at the end of July. It is amazing to see how much time and energy is put into the theme camps, decorations, and workshops there. The attendees are always so respectful and have no problem waiting in our ridiculously long line because we “have the best food on the mountain”.
My favorite band is definitely LITZ! I believe the first time I saw these guys was in 2013 at Mad Tea Party Jam and I have been hooked ever since. I have seen the evolution of the band through the years and can’t wait to see what the boys are going to bring us next!
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a food vendor?
I love being able to arrive a day early to set up and have a night to hang with all of the people putting together the event. I feel it creates a special bond between us. Without all of us working together these events wouldn’t be possible. It’s also so heart warming when people come up to the stand and tell us “That smoothie saved my life this morning!” or “Sassy Wraps is here! I can eat good this weekend!”. That is what I live for.
What are some of your biggest struggles?
One struggle is gauging how much food to bring to an event. You have to take into consideration how many people are going to attend, how many are bringing most of their own food, how many vendors there are going to be, and the weather. I don’t want to come home with a bunch of food, but I don’t want to run out Saturday morning either. This is mostly for first time events. Once I’ve vended an event it’s a lot easier to decide how much we need to bring. Another struggle is finding reliable help. Vending is a lot of work and a lot of people don’t realize that. I’ve had people come to work for me that thought they just had to stand at the front table for a few hours and then got a free ticket to the festival. They were unpleasantly surprised when I had them cutting vegetables, making smoothies, and washing dishes for half of the day. It’s also important to know oneself and be able to balance work and partying, and work always comes first. Over the years I have built up a pretty incredible team, but they all work other jobs so sometimes I’m in search of people to fill their spots.
Why do you enjoy making food for people?
Food is life! It’s important people put good things in their body so they feel good. This is especially true at festivals. Attendees need the right vitamins and nutrients to keep their bodies going through their long weekend of partying. If they eat snacks and fried food all weekend all of that grease and fat is going to catch up to them and by Sunday they’re going to feel like crap. I am trying to promote a more healthy lifestyle. If you eat good, you feel good and it also makes your brain function better.
What is a funny story from a past food vending experience?
I remember the first year we vended Watermelon Park Fest, it was 2016 I believe. We had arrived Wednesday to set up and it was so hot we were pouring sweat. By the time we had everything situated to my standard (I am very particular on how I like my kitchen set up) it was almost 1am so my business partner at the time and I headed to the shower house to clean up before we retired for the night. Upon arriving we realized that a shower cost 50 cents and we had no change with us. So we walked around for a few minutes trying to see if anyone was awake to help us out. After hitting a few campsites we were blessed with 50 cents, one shower. With it being so late and us being so tired we decided we would just shower together real quick so we could go to sleep. As we finished up and the both of us came out of the men’s restroom the maintenance lady just happened to be walking up and was not pleased. She immediately threatened to kick us out and permanently ban us from the property for showering together because it is a family campground. Once we explained we were vendors and told her the situation she gave us both 50 cents and told us she better not catch us again! It’s still so funny to me because we didn’t even think about it being viewed that way, we were just covered in sweat and dirt and just wanted to go to bed! Now every time we go there I make sure we have quarters for the whole crew.
What do you see in the future for Sassy Wraps or your career in food service?
I am currently working to secure a residency at a venue so we would do all of the events held there and use their commercial kitchen to prep for our other events. I want to start doing some larger festivals. I feel confident in myself and my team and I want people to be able to get a sassy wrap at more places. This year I had the opportunity to open a cafe and I spent a lot of time trying to make that work, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite what I had hoped. Maybe sometime in the future I will try a brick and mortar again but for next year I want to really focus on the festival scene again.