FOODIES came in record numbers for a taste of the 2013 Hamper Llangollen food festival - providing a big boost to the local economy.
With the Llangollen Pavilion packed to capacity, visitors had the opportunity to browse stalls offering everything from hand-crafted liqueurs to spice-infused honey and home-churned butter to decorated cup cakes.
Celebrity chefs including Graham Tinsley, Harri Wyn Jones and Dai Chef were on hand throughout the weekend to demonstrate the very best cooking techniques and some of their own award-winning recipes.
The event has now been officially recognised as one of the top 10 food festivals in the UK.
Sisters Rashelle Smith, 26, and Renee Smith, 27, of Ruabon showcased their Yours Truly Vintage Catering business and drew a large crowd as they cooked up a Spanish chicken and chorizo paella in a huge open pan.
Rashelle said: “This is our second time at Llangollen and the feedback has been excellent. We’ve been so busy – it has to be good for our business.”
Renne added: “People say they’re drawn to our stall thanks to the cooking aromas. I have to say we are really pleased with the sheer number of people here and interest shown in our produce.”
Among the new products being launched this year was Britain’s oldest biscuit. The ancient recipe for the Aberffraw biscuit dates back to the 13th century when it was first baked in the Anglesey village of the same name.
It has now been brought back to life by former journalist James Shepherd and his wife Natasha, who live in Llansannan.
James said: “It’s been a learning curve and we’re delighted with the way our biscuits have been received by visitors. The event has given us the chance to seek advice from similar small enterprises and entrepreneurs as well as Cadwyn Clwyd.
“It has also given us a real platform to promote our exclusive biscuits to a really wide audience.
“We’re delighted to have had the opportunity to exhibit at what is one of the UK’s top food festivals.”
There was also a comeback from the woman who co-founded the festival - this time as an exhibitor.
Sue Haygarth from Buckley was instrumental in setting up Hamper Llangollen when she worked for Denbighshire County Council as regeneration and investment officer.
Sue chose this year’s event as the launchpad for her own one-woman business making mouth-watering macaroons – her company is called KarmaSucre
According to Dewi Davies, regional strategy director of Tourism Partnership North Wales, Hamper Llangollen is a key part of their recipe for economic success in the region.
Recently the festival has also won a special award from Llangollen Town Council for its contribution to the commercial life of the town.
It is estimated the event pumps nearly £400,000 into the local economy every year with £156,000 being spent at the event and a further £234,000 being spent in the town and the surrounding area.
The Food North Wales campaign launched by Tourism Partnership North Wales is aimed at building on that success and showcasing the very best in regional produce.
Mr Davies added: “It’s vital we raise awareness of our food and its authenticity.
We’re increasingly finding that visitors to the region like the look of our food, they like the taste of our food and they are spreading the word and telling others about the quality of the food on offer here in North Wales.
“It is fabulous to see Llangollen in the sunshine, the car park full and the pavilion packed to the rafters with festival-goers, some of whom travelled a very considerable distance.”
He added: “We should not lose sight of the fact that high quality food and drinks are increasingly important to our visitors and the Hamper Llangollen Food festival certainly showcases the quality products we have on offer.”
Cllr Hugh Evans, leader of Denbighshire Council, added: “I’ve nothing but praise for all those involved with the festival including the exhibitors who have put on such a fantastic show.
“The sheer volume of people who have come along is proof of what a wonderful event this really is. It’s clearly something we should all be very proud of.”
It was a sentiment shared by Gareth Evans, company secretary of rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd, which supported sponsored the event.
He said: “The festival is now a very important event in the calendar and people are not just browsing, they are spending their hard-earned cash and buying the quality goods on offer.
“I’ve watched the festival grow and expand since the first event was held way back in 1999.
“This is clearly a very sustainable industry that can only be good for the region and North Wales in general.”
Carolyn Thomas, chairman of Flintshire Council, chairman of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Cadwyn Clwyd director, said the Hamper Llangollen Food Festival was a brilliant example of co-operation.
She said: “Flintshire and Denbighshire work closely together to promote the area along with our colleagues from other North Wales authorities.
“This wonderful event showcases the very best of what we have on offer right across the region.
“The festival highlights the very best of North Wales and shows just what the community has to offer.
“We can and must learn from each other and continue to showcase North Wales to the world. The Hamper Llangollen Food festival plays an important part in doing that.”