Weather worries might have cast a cloud over preparations for this year’s Alnwick Food Festival, but in the end, threatened weekend storms were replaced with clear blue skies and beautiful conditions.
And as the town basked in sunshine, crowds poured in to the Market Place on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the culinary showcase, which offers some of the very best of Northumberland produce.
This year’s event had plenty on the menu, meaning there was something for festival-goers of all ages to sample.
Organisers had certainly cooked up a busy programme, which included a wealth of traders, street entertainment and a funfair.
In what was a glowing endorsement of local produce, more than 80 per cent of the stallholders came from Northumberland and its surrounds. More than a quarter were attending Alnwick Food Festival for the first time.
Meanwhile, in the Town Hall, Alnwick and District Round Table staged its annual beer festival.
Food-festival chairman Philip Angier said: “It’s hard to say who were the stars of the show. The street food on offer was scrummy, the produce on the stalls more than tempting, the entertainers lively and varied and the crowds thronged the Market Place on both days, but probably the accolade goes to the weather.
“Only days before the event, we thought that we would have to cancel Sunday trading because of threatened storms. In the end, we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine.
“The festival committee had set three targets for this year’s event – to increase its family appeal, to work with Produced in Northumberland (a verification scheme highlighting producers and businesses who use produce that is made in Northumberland and give visitors a real taste of the county) attracting more local food traders and to budget carefully.
“Thanks to our sponsors and local businesses supporting our new Friends Scheme, we were able to deliver on all three.”
New to the food festival line-up was the Kidz Zone, a response to visitor feedback at previous events requesting more for families with young children.
Supported by Specsavers, in Alnwick, the Kidz Zone offered workshops, free activities and shows, face-painting and a smoothie bike.
Tracey Sprigg, of Northumberland Eats, who oversaw these activities in the Northumberland Hall, said: “We were a bit anxious trying something new, so it was wonderful to see the kids joining in with all of the activities and having such fun.”
And the good news is that, following the food festival, more events are on the menu.
Graeme Nicholson, Alnwick Markets manager, said: “Some of your favourite food-festival traders will be back tomorrow (Friday) for our monthly farmers’ market and I am hoping that we will be attracting some new faces to our regular markets. For the people who enjoyed the food festival, I hope you support our regular weekly market, as well as our festivals.”
Stallholders who attended the Alnwick Food Festival also praised the event, with their sales exceeding expectations.
Graham Harper, from Harpers Exotic BBQ, said: “It was absolutely brilliant. I had sold out of my weekend supplies before the end the first day and I had to hurriedly track down some extra stock for Sunday. Roll on next year because I shall definitely be coming back.”
Graham’s experience was mirrored by other traders, with many reporting that they had achieved or exceeded their expected weekend sales before the end of the first day.
Andy Steele, of Borderesque, was selling vegetarian and vegan streetfood.
He said: “We had people from all over the country and of all ages come to our stall. It was great to see Alnwick Food Festival attracting such a wide range of visitors. We certainly hope that the market in Alnwick goes from strength to strength and continues to attract new people along to what we found to be a cracking location.”
Jannick Genouw, from A Taste of Northumbria, which is based in Alnwick Market Place, was another to praise the festival. He said: “The event was a great success for us, but also for the whole town, bringing so many people into the town centre.”
The food festival will be held on September 21 and 22 next year.