THOUSANDS of people enjoyed top quality food and drink from across the region at Tamworth’s first ever food festival.
The inaugural Tamworth Food Gusto Festival has been hailed a resounding success, with culinary delights being served up to almost 9,000 people across the two days and several exhibitors already signing up for a return event next year.
More than 60 of the region’s finest artisan food and drink producers descended on the Castle Grounds during September 12 and September 13, bringing a range of unique delicacies for people to sample and buy.
Both days were incredibly busy as food lovers enjoyed soaking up the sights and smells, with some exhibitors even selling out. The pizza stall sold out at 3pm on Saturday after making 170 fresh pizzas and Roasters served up 25 joints of pork over the two days.
There was also a wide range of activities and entertainment for people to enjoy throughout the festival, including live cooking demonstrations by personal chef Simon Smith, a cupcake competition, street entertainment and live music from The Jays.
Saturday also coincided with the annual Stars and Stripes line dancing event, which was incorporated into the Tamworth Food Gusto Festival this year and which raised £2,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Sunday coincided with national Heritage Open Day and saw a range of events taking place in the town, including historic buildings opening their doors free of charge.
The festival received some amazing feedback from visitors and exhibitors alike.
Visitor Sarah Louise said: “Wow. Brilliant day. Spent a fortune. Indonesian cooking was delicious.”
Cheryl Dale said: “Brilliant food fair – more please Tamworth – we have loads to offer.”
Another tweeted: “Not bad at all Tamworth Food Festival. Venison burgers and salted caramel ice cream desserts. See you in 2016.”
Exhibitors ranged from seasoned festival goers to new businesses, many of which are small artisan producers working from their own farms, kitchens or garages.
Firefighter Ade Caudwell started making fudge as a hobby six months ago. Now, Fudge by Sophie (inspired by his 10-year-old daughter and chief taster) is already being sold in four shops in Tamworth.
“I’m really pleased to see this event in Tamworth. It’s been great for us. We brought two days’ worth of stock in 10 different flavours and most of it was gone during the first part of Sunday.”
Janice Pearson and Andrew Sumnall of EW Sumnall and Sons are no strangers to the food festival scene and enjoyed sharing their venison and bison products with Tamworth people. All meat is from their farm in Packington, near Leicester.
“The site here is excellent and the event has provided the opportunity for people to try lots of different foods. Our 100 per cent venison and bison burgers went down a treat,” they said.
Several budding bakers also demonstrated their skills in a cupcake competition, which saw judge Simon Smith tasked with selecting the winners out of a range of impressive creations.
First prize in the adult ‘cupcake-off’ went to Helen Harris, for her peacock design. She won dinner for two at Christopher’s Restaurant. Joanne Hill won a £15 Roasters voucher for her large piggy cupcake while Rachel Bassett won a bottle of wine for her Tamworth Castle-themed creation.
In the children’s competition, first prize of afternoon tea for four people at Christopher’s went to 13-year-old Ben Bassett for his burger and fries cupcake, while his 12-year-old brother Tom won a family bowling session at Namco for his ice-cream sundae cupcake.
Five-year-old Ella Thomas won third prize of a £10 Roasters voucher for her ladybird cupcake design.
With the inaugural event such a success, organisers Tamworth Town Team Destination Tamworth and Food Gusto can now push ahead with plans for a second event in 2016, with the hope that the festival will become a firm fixture on the town’s events calendar.
Chairperson of the town team, Samantha Panton, said: “With any new event, you are always taking a risk, especially when the weather has a part to play, but I’m pleased to say that the risk paid off and it was great to see so many people coming out to support it.
“Tamworth is definitely a perfect location for a food festival and it was welcomed by all. As a town team we want to promote Tamworth and make it a great place to visit. We have so much to offer and this is the sort of event we should be hosting; this will hopefully help to put us on the food festival map.
“Next year’s event is already in the planning and our hope now is that it will continue to grow and grow over the coming years. Our thanks go to everyone who helped make the festival such a success.”
Photographs to Beverley Sallis Photography.