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HANFORD — Local foodies can help students realize their scholastic dreams this weekend — one taco at a time.

Organized by the Professional Latin American Association, the Taco Truck Throwdown returns to downtown Hanford from 5-10 p.m. Saturday.

And while the tacos entice thousands to descend on Civic Park, the event is really about raising money for local students, PLAA President Carol Hernandez said.

“The main purpose of the event is to raise funds for kids in unfortunate circumstances where they can’t afford to go to school,” Hernandez said.

Scholarship funds go toward entry fees, books, travel and other college-related expenses.

When reviewing scholarship applicants, the PLAA takes grade point averages, community involvement and financial need into consideration.

This year, six students will receive scholarships for $1,000 while a seventh will receive $5,000.

Now in its fifth year and drawing more than 10,000 taco lovers last year, the Taco Truck Throwdown has come a long way since the inaugural event that ran out of food in only two hours, Hernandez said.

“You learn every year what to do better for the coming year,” she said.

The area of 7th Street between N. Irwin and Douty streets will be populated with nearly a dozen food trucks that will be grilling up their signature tacos while a beer garden in the park will help alleviate the thirst of any parched visitors.

The event’s special VIP judges include Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever, Capt. Karl Anderson, Lemoore Chief of Police Darrell Smith, District 1 Supervisor Joel Neves, Farmersville Mayor Gregorio Gomez and Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes.

“They will decide who has the best taco overall,” Hernandez said.

The other award categories include People’s Choice, decided by the truck that sells the most tacos, and Best in Show, which will be awarded to most visually appealing truck. The winners will receive trophies and bragging rights for a full year.

The event will also feature a DJ and a live band.

Though this is the fifth annual Taco Truck Throwdown’s , PLAA has been providing local students with scholarships for about two decades.

Hernandez said that the PLAA office was recently visited by a group of friends that included a Hanford-by-way-of-Laton resident who just wanted to thank the members of the organization for giving him a scholarship many years ago that helped enable him to become an architect.

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Contact the reporter at pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com

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