Thousands of food lovers descended on Llangollen over the weekend for the 20th anniversary food festival.
Among the host of crowd-pullers this year were cooking displays from top chefs Bryan Webb from the Michelin-starred Tyddyn Llan, former captain of the Wales Culinary team Graham Tinsley and the ever-popular Dai Chef who was there with his son, Daniel, the youngest head sommelier in the UK.
A special event to mark the festival’s closeness to Halloween was the staging of the inaugural Welsh Pumpkin Carving Championship masterminded by Simon O’Rourke who tours the world using a chainsaw to create stunning sculptures in wood.
Simon said: “It’s been going extremely well and we’ve attracted a large number of entrants all trying to come up with the most strikingly ghoulish face.
“The carvers, who have been bidding to win a £50 food hamper from the festival, have been enthusiastically cutting and scraping away and picking a winner is going to be so tough.”
Among those bidding for pumpkin perfection was six-year-old Gethin Jones from Rhos near Wrexham who was there with his mum Gemma.
Gemma said: “I’m a member of the forestry group at Ty Mawr so he’s used to doing things like whittling with wood but this is the first time he’s attempted carving a pumpkin. I think the championship is a fantastic idea.”
Rhian Owen from the Siwgr a Sbeis bakery – in English Sugar and Spice – in Llanrwst has taken a stall at the festival to show off her hand-made cakes and confectionery every year since 1997 and said she just had to be there to mark its 20th birthday.
She said: “The first one was quite a small affair and all the exhibitors were in just one area of the Pavilion but I’ve seen it go from strength to strength since then.
“It’s good for business and what I love about it is the lovely friendly atmosphere you always get.
“People come every year specially to buy my Christmas puddings and it’s been the same this time. I’m going to keep coming back because I just couldn’t miss it.”
Another Hamper regular is Roy Broadhurst who has been bringing his mobile coffee shop Caffeine Rush over from his base in Ysceifiog, Flintshire for the past 15 years.
He said: “I keep coming back because it’s good and local and I’ve got to know many of the other stallholders here. It’s never all that expensive to take space and my customers know I’ll be here and come looking for me.”
Also visiting from Flintshire where his company, Precious Chocolate Ltd, is based in Connah’s Quay was Carl Gillard who said: “This is the first time I’m exhibited here but it’s fantastic and I’m really enjoying the atmosphere and the business I’m doing. I’ll definitely be coming back next year.”
One of the food experts appearing in the popular performance area at the festival was Jack Hatley, resident chef at Gales Wine Bar in the town. He was giving a deft demonstration of knife skills which went down well with audience member Jan Osborne from Wrexham.
She said: “This is the second time I’ve been to Hamper Llangollen and I’m enjoying it very much. I’m an enthusiastic cook at home and it was very interesting to see some of the latest equipment like the knives and how a real professional uses them.”
In the new hands-on performance area to the side of the main hall, a team from Coleg Cambria in Wrexham was attracting lots of attention with its bread-making display.
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