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Festival's got cheesesteak in the heart

Philly Cheesesteak's festival was jam packed with food lovers, but many complained of overcrowding.
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    A crowd stands to gawk at Steve's Prince of Steaks 500 foot cheesesteak featured at t|Jennifer Kerrigan

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    Steve Iliescu of Steve's Prince of Steaks pours his signature melted American cheese |Jennifer Kerrigan

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    Steve Iliescu's grandon, Mason Arno, hands out Philadelphia pretzels at the Cheesest|Jennifer Kerrigan

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    Tom Francano, general manager of Pat's King of Steaks, attended the Cheesesteak Festi|Jennifer Kerrigan

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    Crowds at the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival.|Jennifer Kerrigan

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    Jen Staskel of Northeast Philadelphia attended the Cheesesteak Festival Oct. 24 at Li|Jennifer Kerrigan

Depending on who you asked, the first ever Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival was either a blast or a bust.

"This was a money guzzler -- all of these people and they were trying to sell me more vouchers to get only a piece of a cheesesteak," said Irene Charles from South Philly. "They didn't have Jim's or Geno's samples here -- it's not a real Philly Cheesesteak Festival at all."

But some of the other 25,000 guests at the Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, where the festival was held, were ecstatic to get their hands on Philly's signature dish.

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“This will be the second time I ever had a cheesesteak,” said Emma Petrovic from Maryland. “It took me two hours to drive over here …but it was so worth it.”

Fifty-eight vendors from all over the coast were at the festival serving different variations of the Philly classic from vegan to even jerk chicken cheesesteak.

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A 500 foot-long cheesesteak was constructed by Steve’s Prince of Steaks with Amoroso’s bread rolls.

Attendees came from all over the country to sample cheesesteak popcorn, cheesesteak dumplings, and even cheesesteak pierogies.

“We came all the way from Malvern to show folks how hickory smoked brisket makes the best cheesesteak, “ said Ed Tietjen, owner of Twenty9 restaurant.

The classic rivalry between Philly's cheesesteak businesses was on display as well.

Steve Iliescu, owner of Steve’s Prince of Steaks, boasted that they were picked to build the giant cheesesteak.

“The fans choose us to build it because we are the absolute best – hands down,” he said.

Geno's wasn't offering samples but giveaways for their new location inside the nearby Xfinity Live, which earned them some potshots.

“Maybe they didn’t have the manpower to feed the crowd," said Tommy Francano, a chef at Pat's Steaks. “What makes us great? It must be our chopped steak. Some folks should learn from us.”

 

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