Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Food Festivals - A Few Thoughts and Tips




This time of year in particular is awash (in more ways than one) but mostly with food festivals. And having attended my fair share of them over the years, I thought I'd put together some suggestions of things to consider if you're off to a food festival and it's your first time.

Some of these points might be obvious but they're all things I've learned and mistakes I've made along the way. Hope they're useful.

Plan ahead
Sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised. Check your transport options a few days before so you know what time you can travel (cheaper train tickets don't let you travel at peak busy times) and how you get from the station to the event. Some tickets are cheaper if you book in advance anyway, and if you are travelling a long way and you anticipate it to be busy, you can always reserve a seat on the train. Remember too, that some festivals are held in fields that can be far away from the main town, so take some cash in case you need a bus or taxi.

Take a bag
It doesn't have to be glamorous, a bag you use for your grocery shopping will do. You'll probably get given samples to take away (if you're lucky), as well as leaflets, catalogues and a festival guide. You're also bound to be buying lots of goodies as you go round. I've seen so many people at these events uncomfortably cradling all their stuff in their arms as they walk round. Just take a bag. Festival bags are often available but they can be expensive to buy.

Take out cash before you go and consider the cost of lunch there
I got stuck at one food festival once when I had £15 cash. Once I'd paid my bus fare and bought lunch I had nothing left to buy goodies with - and there wasn't a cash machine in sight. You might get lucky and find a stall that takes cards but usually, they don't. Sometimes cash machines are available but there will be queues due to high demand, and some machines charge you for withdrawals. Also bear in mind that a jar of gourmet curry sauce can cost around £4-5 and a hot dog about £3.50 at least. Maybe take slightly more than you think you need, if you can afford it, to take lunch and drinks into account.

Take a camera, even if its the camera on your phone
Food festivals are great places to spot and even meet celebrities who are usually happy to have a quick chat and maybe have their photo taken with you. Take a camera and charge your phone - otherwise you might miss a photo opportunity!

Dress comfortably
They might look nice, but eight-inch stilettos might not be the best footwear for a food festival. There's usually a lot of walking and sometimes it's outside in a field. And always dress according to the weather!

Get there early in the day, if you can
I love getting to food festivals just after they've opened. It's a great way to wander round and chat to the producers before things get busy. I find they're much more willing to talk to you about how they make their produce and where it's from than when they're busy with customers later in the day.

and finally...
 

Check the show's website before you go
Sometimes, celebrity guests or guest speakers and demonstrations are announced at the last minute. Check the timings and events on the day, before you set off so you know what you'll be going to do. Don't miss out on a favourite chef demo because you left the festival early and found out about it when you got home. That's really annoying.

What are your tips for people going to food festivals? How can they be better prepared?