Hundreds of thousands of foodies have flocked to Bolton for the town’s biggest and best food and drink festival yet.
Organisers are still calculating visitor figures but early indications suggest they are set to top last year’s 152,000, with festival goers coming from a far afield as Australia, France, and across the UK.
Bolton Food and Drink Festival took place over the August Bank Holiday (Aug 28 to 31) and is organised by Bolton Council in association with Aldi.
One of the star attractions was Kimmy - a 5ft 7in, 250kg elephant cake - made especially for the festival’s 10th birthday by expert baker Rose Dummer.
The cake was cut by festival favourite James Martin on the last day of the festival, and served up to visitors with a portion set aside for local charity Urban Outreach.
He said: “It’s my seventh time in Bolton. To see it grow and extend around the streets is amazing and it really is one of the best food festivals you can go to. The cake was also pretty special.”
Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Cliff Morris, said Rose’s creation was definitely one of the highlights.
“She did a fantastic job and it was a fitting tribute to our 10th birthday celebrations. Overall, the event has been a huge success. We’ve had great feedback not only from traders but also some of the local businesses, who said that the festival has brought people into the town centre.
“People have been coming to the festival and using the shops as well. The event is bigger and better, more people have been coming. We’re just finalising figures but we look to be on track for breaking last year’s record,” he added.
Aldi Logistics Director, Virgil Simpson, said: “The festival has been fantastic and the sheer volume of people has just been amazing. We wanted to announce Aldi’s big move to Bolton and this has been the perfect occasion. Our recruitment for the regional head office and distribution centre has gone really well. Bolton Council has done a great job and worked so hard to put this on.”
Michael Caines, who launched the festival on Friday, said: “What makes this festival great is the people. They make it special, it’s like a family. It’s a brilliant event which gets people into the town centre.”
On Saturday, actress Lisa Faulkner, GBBO’s Luis Troyano and Dragon’s Den Omar and Phil from Phom Tea hosted the largest afternoon tea outside London. Lisa Faulkner came on her partner John Torode’s recommendation. She said: “John had a lovely time last year – he said I have to do it this year and I’ve absolutely loved it.”
John entertained audiences on Sunday where he made fish curry and Korean fired chicken. He said: “I’m delighted to be back, Bolton’s always great, with lots of people and lots of laughs. These sort of festivals are really important and bring people from the local area together, as well as street food traders from all over the country.”
John also hosted a challenge between 2015 Masterchef Winner Simon Wood and Steven Hallsall – brother of Alan Halsall who plays Tyrone in Corrie. The audience judged the winner to be Steven. He said: “It was amazing. I was really nervous and trying to remember the ingredients.
“I’ve only had two lessons and it’s all down to Mike Harrison from ‘Chef to go’ who is a close friend. We come most years to the festival, but this year it’s massive.”
The free family area on Le Mans Crescent with CBeebies star Katy Ashworth was once again a hit. She said: “I had the best time last year and what I love about the festival is the welcome I get here. The people are special and I really love doing events like this.”
As well as the celebrity chefs, the weekend saw a host of free demonstrations from the likes of Andrew Nutter, Luis Troyano, and former Corrie star Sean Wilson.
Valerie Hey from the south of France times her visit to the UK with the festival. She said: “It’s my third time at the festival and I love it. I make sure I come back for it every year. The atmosphere is wonderful and Bolton really comes to life. I’ve really enjoyed the demos, and the afternoon tea with Lisa was lovely. I’ll come back again without a doubt.”
Evan Blount, aged 42, all the way from Sydney, said: “It was worth travelling all the way from Sydney just for Franca’s amazing pizza. I’ve already bought all of the ingredients to make John Torode’s Korean fried chicken.”
Traders were also very pleased with the turnout. Lisa Kidd, from local Bolton business I Heart Jam, said they’ve been coming to the festival for three years. “This has definitely got to be the busiest, biggest and best one so far and I’m loving it,” she said.
Andrew George, from Icky Sticky Cake, added: “This is our first time in Bolton and it won’t be our last. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s been a fantastic event.”
For more information about the festival visit www.boltonfoodanddrinkfestival.com, follow Bolton Food and Drink Festival page on Facebook or @boltonfoodfest on Twitter.
Sponsors are Aldi, Greenhalgh’s, Ikea, Market Place Shopping Centre and Stateside Foods. Partners are Agilisys, Bolton Market, Impression Ltd, Kro Bar, Marriott, Octagon Theatre, and Slattery.