Almost 20,000 people flocked to Ludlow Food Festival with organisers describing the event as “amazing” despite failing to match last year’s record-breaking figures.
Beth Heath, operations director, said organisers were more than satisfied considering yesterday’s weather and said the takings both at the gate and at stalls held up well.
She said: “Attendance is down this time but it has still been a massive success and the spend has matched last year’s which is really positive.
“Sunday was very wet but when we opened the gates we were shocked as there were hundreds of people waiting to get in and see what was on offer.
“Unfortunately you just can’t do anything about the weather and it does affect attendance, but we are not down about it as the weekend has been amazing.”
More than 180 exhibitors were showcasing at the event which is hailed as one of the highlights of the culinary calendar both in Shropshire and further afield.
One of the most popular attractions was a series of trails – for fans of sausages, breads, ales and treasure – held across the town. Meanwhile, Michelin star-winning chef Will Holland assembled a team of “all-stars” to mark his last weekend in the town before departing from La Becasse, where he has worked for the past six years.
The team cooked a selection of tasty dishes and took part in demonstrations inside the grounds of Ludlow Castle.
UK Thai Curry Chef of the Year Suree Coates, from The King and Thai restaurant in Broseley, also launched her new book, Cook Thai with Suree Coates.
The highlight of Shropshire’s culinary calendar pulled in crowds from across the country, keen to sample the mouthwatering wares of 180 exhibitors.
Professional chefs demonstrated their skills on stage while festival-goers ambled between bustling marquees full of delicious sight and smells.
Revellers feasted their eyes on enormous rounds of cheese, glistening olives, pink cuts of meat and barrels of beer.
A number of debut attractions satisfied appetites for something new, including sell-out master classes in Egyptian, Indian and Thai cooking.
Even the little chefs were catered for when they rolled up their sleeves in the KidzKitchen.
Inquisitive eaters set off on trails in search of sausages, bread, ale and even treasure – as this year £200 worth of gold coins were waiting to be found.
And after each successful day of sampling and shopping, some guests rambled off to a Secret Restaurant eight miles from the town 900 feet high in the hills.
One stall that had customers buzzing around it all weekend belonged to the Ludlow and District Beekeepers Association, where jars of golden honey were flying off the table.
Member Susan Hayday said: “It’s lovely to talk to so many people about our fascinating hobby.
“Today we have 18 different types of honey. A bee’s life cycle is just six weeks in the summer and each bee would make a teaspoon of honey so you can see thousands and thousands have made the honey that has gone into these jars.”
Inside the marquee Kate Gibbons, of Deli on the Square in Ludlow, was enjoying the hustle and bustle.
“We’ve had a lot of great feedback, lots of tasting and we are selling lots of cheese,” she said.
“We’ve had such a nice lot of people and it’s so busy but because there’s more room in here this year it doesn’t feel overcrowded.”
But something did not smell right at the Snoggable Garlic Company’s stall.
“It’s garlic you can eat and still snog – but I can’t tell you why – it’s a trade secret,” said Belinda Welsman.
“People are really intrigued and want to come over and try it out.
“This year we have branched out into nut roasts which are really tasty for vegetarians and even non-vegetarians are buying it to use for stuffing.”
All that eating proved thirsty work and real ale lovers washed it all down with pints from Cleobury Mortimer-based Hobson’s Brewery.
Kate Pearce, of Hobson’s Brewery, said: “We are one of the festival’s original exhibitors so we have watched it grow and develop.
“There’s so much here that some people are a bit overwhelmed and then some are mega organised and have a look around before they go back and buy everything they want. Our publicans and regulars come to see us which is really nice.”
For operations director Beth Heath a full year of preparation was a recipe for success, despite the weather taking a turn for the worse yesterday.
“Friday I think the exhibitors were up on sales and because it was quieter people had the chance to chat to them about the product.
“Saturday is typically the busiest day and that has been the case this year.
“The sun was shining, it was packed so it was brilliant.”