More than 10,000 people from throughout the country converged on Melton at the weekend for the annual East Midlands Food Festival which organisers say was one of the best in its 14-year history.
It’s estimated that visitors spend £60 each, on average, with a huge selection of food and drink from around the world, as well as local delicacies like Melton pork pies and Stilton cheese.
Extra marquee space was provided this year to accommodate more than 200 exhibitors, at the cattle market, and there was plenty of interest in presentations in the food theatre by celebrity chefs and cooking experts, such as Rachel Green and Jo Pratt.
The Street Food area was also particularly popular, with the traditional burgers being complemented by paella, melted brie savouries, cheese melts, lasagne, Polish sausages, Caribbean dishes, curries and various vegetarian foods.
Organiser Matthew O’Callaghan said: “We had more than 10,000 people which is one of the highest attendances we’ve ever had.
“We spent more money on marketing this year and that helped bring in lots of coaches from places as far afield as Norwich and Yorkshire.
“Our reputation in Melton as the rural capital of food also helps sell tickets.
“The food court did extremely well - that was heaving - and we had a chap producing long Polish sausages who had a long queue to see him.
“People were leaving with lots of heavy bags - they often arrive expecting to spend £20 but end up spending £60 to £80.
“They enjoy being able to taste food. You don’t get the opportunity to try before you buy in supermarkets.”
Organisers are now extending the range of food being exhibited to cater more for vegetarians and those with special dietary requirements such as gluten-free products and halal meat.
“We are trying to make the festival as inclusive as possible so everyone can participate,” Mr O’Callaghan explained.
“There really was a huge range of food being exhibited, including lots from around the world such as cider which is brewed on the slopes of the Himalayas and cannoli from Sicily.”
One of the new features this year was a demonstration of butchery by Robert Bowring, a trader at the weekly farmers’ market there.
He butchered a whole pig and explained what the individual cuts of meat were called, where the best bits are found on the animal and how to get the best value for your money when you are buying the meat.
The event is now well established as one of the nation’s premier food festivals with its 15th anniversary due to be celebrated next year.
One sour point for some visitors was receiving parking tickets for leaving their vehicles in the pay and display car park off Scalford Road. It is thought there was some confusion because free parking had been advertised for the event.
Mr O’Callaghan added: “There were probably around 30 people who complained they had been given parking tickets after visiting the festival.
“It was a pay and display car park but I think the council should have made it clear there that people were required to pay if they parked there.”
l The next major event in Melton is ChocFest, which will also be at the town’s cattle market, on the weekend of November 18 and 19.
It will feature tastings, demonstrations, talks, workshops and plenty of chocolate and associated food and drink to buy from local and national UK producers.
There is coach parking available on site for up to 50 and group offers are available on request. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Tickets are priced at £6 (£5 in advance). Children under 16 get in free. Advance tickets are on sale from the Visit Leicester Centre in Leicester and Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe in Melton, or online. Visit www.ukchocfest.co.uk for more information,