The Isle of Man Food & Drink Festival in the Villa Marina Gardens attracted more visitors than ever, with 5,600 visiting the weekend’s two-day celebration of local produce and cooking.
Visitors had a huge choice of stands to enjoy, including many first-time exhibitors, plenty of opportunities to sample local food and drink, plus entertainment in the shape of the I Love Manx Chef of the Year competition, won by Darren Woods of 14North, and the brilliant pizza-making showdown between local personalities Dot Tilbury and Stuart Baggs.
There was a very high standard among the exhibitors, making the job of choosing the best stand very tough. That honour when to “Paddy’s Hooked on Fish”, and the winner’s plaque was presented to a delighted Matty Mathieson-Nelson, Director of Robinson’s Fresh Foods, by DEFA Minister Richard Ronan MHK.
Reflecting the growing popularity of the Festival, there were visitors from Canada and the UK who had travelled to the Island specifically for the event, as well as people on holiday in Ireland who had decided to come over especially for the Festival.
Although visitor feedback forms are still be collated, they reflect that most people enjoyed a ‘great day out’, with particular praise for the wide variety of local produce, the opportunity to meet the producers and the relaxed atmosphere. The Festival organisers will take note of comments about aspects which visitors liked least and use them to inform ideas for next year. There is still time to send in surveys or complete one online at www.gov.im/food
The Festival proved a success for the exhibitors too, with many reporting increases in inquiries, new contracts and sales. In fact, demand was so high that some producers and caterers had sold out by the end of the Festival.
The Festival was also an opportunity for local producers to network with other businesses. This resulted in new outlets for produce as well as interesting ideas such as the use of sheep’s wool for insulating the cold boxes used for food storage.
Mr Ronan said:
‘This Festival is growing in popularity and has become an excellent stage from which to promote the fantastic range and wonderfully high quality of locally produced food and drink. I’m delighted so many people took the opportunity to attend, and very pleased to hear business was booming for the exhibitors.
‘We have an incredibly diverse range of producers in the Island, supported by innovative suppliers, and it is important we, as a community, appreciate and support this hard work. It is equally important that we showcase our food and drink to the rest of the world, so it is very pleasing to know we welcomed visitors from around the British Isles and as far afield as Canada who came to the Isle of Man specifically to share our Festival.’