Wexford Food Festival 2017 – a Recipe for Success

What are the ingredients for a successful Food Festival?

  1. A gorgeous variety of fresh, local and international produce;
  2. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable vendors;
  3. Brilliant crowds from near and far, loyal to the familiar as well as willing to sample the new;
  4. Fantastic organisation and planning.

Method: Carefully blend all together in the stunning location of Wexford town and surrounds; add a splash of seaside swimming; a pinch of music; a dash of sunshine over the last weekend in May; and VOILA! A perfectly delicious event.

The Wexford Food Festival is in its ninth year and lead organiser Gary Johnston sums up the 2017 Festival by saying it was a ‘great success’.  An enormous amount of planning by a group of business minded volunteers goes in to setting the event up each year and it’s clear this is the backbone of the weekend’s growing popularity.

Thursday night saw the official launch of the weekend at Kelly’s Hotel, Rosslare Strand with a Spanish ‘Wine and Dine’ night. Other highlights over the weekend included a free White Gypsy barbecue at the Sky and the Ground on Friday night, a further ‘Wine and Dine’ night on Saturday hosted by Green Acres, the South Main Ale Trail with Simon Lamberts, Sky and the Ground and Bugler Doyle’s, all in South Main Street; as well as a hugely popular Open water swim and breakfast in conjunction with celebrity chefs and authors from The Happy Pear cafe. All proceeds from the swim go towards the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Live music rounded up the weekend on Sunday night at the Sky and the Ground which, according to Gary, was ‘just rocking!’

Stall holders were set up in Selskar, The Bull Ring and South Main Street with further events happening in Wexford library, the Raven and at the Heritage Park. Some vendors had travelled from other parts of Ireland and even as far as Wales but the majority were from County Wexford. Building brand recognition is a valuable component but meeting customers and listening to their feedback was felt to be even more important. Many vendors return year after year having seen the benefits of their businesses expanding through these interactions. If they miss a year customers tell them that they were missed! It was felt that as the event is so well run, it is easy and enjoyable for stall holders to attend the festival.

In spite of rain on Saturday morning, people turned out in their droves throughout the weekend to sample the enormous range of foods, wines and ales being showcased. From pots bursting with juicy red Wexford strawberries coated in molten chocolate, boxes of sugary mini donuts, gluten free and dairy free chocolates, homemade crisps and curry spices to the smoky aromas of pulled pork, lamb kebabs, smoked salmon and sizzling sausages, there was something for everyone to sample and buy. Locals who attended the event said ‘the atmosphere was excellent’. ‘The creativity of Irish foods was well showcased -using what we’re good at and doing it well’. ‘You could try something new, do a shop for ingredients or buy something to eat on the day’. ‘Bring your whole family and everyone would have a lovely time’. It is clear visitors would like to see the festival expand throughout the town.

Gary hopes the event can be built on year by year and that it becomes a permanent fixture in the Wexford calendar.  As the Festival is always on the last weekend in May, it’s easy to commit it to the diary. With the backing of their generous sponsors who support this dedicated team of volunteers, it is felt that the event will continue to grow in popularity and success. And the increasing numbers of visitors to the Festival, who are more than willing to treat themselves every year, demonstrate that this certainly is an event well worth running.

Slainte, Wexford Food Festival 2017!

Article by Liberty Henwick: libertyhewick@rockemail.com

Article Photography by Deborah Doyle

Feature Image by Wexford Food Festival

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