Thousands Turn Out - BOFF 2009
After weeks of publicity, Festival Feast tickets were sold out for the Big Olney Food Festival. Thousands of people turned up to enjoy the entertainment and try the food on offer at the wide range of stalls.
The event began in fitting style with children from the Little Drama Stars dance and drama group performing 'Food Glorious Food' from the musical Oliver. Unfazed by the unfamiliar stage, the group charmed the audience.
Koreen Miles from Grandma's Calypso Kitchen did the first cooking demonstration on the stage. Her Caribbean inspired cooking was popular with the members of the public invited to sample the finished product.
There was similar audience involvement for Alun Man's spring roll demonstration. Alun, from the Old Shanghai brought up volunteers to help him with preparing the rolls. There was a long line to taste the samples at the end.
Perhaps the most entertaining of the cooking demonstrations was our take on the popular TV programme, 'Ready, Steady, Cook'. Chefs, Pete Matthews from the Swan Inn and Bistro and Lynne Balletta from Much Ado were tasked with making two pancake fillings, one sweet, one savoury. Pete was assisted by Olney Town Mayor, Mike Hughes and Lynne by Councillor Debbie Brock.
It was an entertaining 30 minutes as the 'helpers' braved the use of the massive 'dominator' oven on the stage. But both teams produced astonishing results. And the result of judging from members of the audience was, perhaps fittingly, a tie.
Matt Proskey from Much Ado wowed the crowd with the Spanish omelette, or tortilla he produced. Loaded with fresh local ingredients, the omelette was demolished by willing helpers.
As organisers from hoped, the first part of the event from 1 to 4 p.m featured many families enjoying the entertainment. Many children enjoyed hurtling down the giant bouncy slide.
Others were to be seen with the food-themed face painting (cupcakes and fruit proving popular). Volunteers for Olney-based charity Advantage Africa gave up their time to do the painting. They raised money for a project to feed orphans in East Africa.
Time for Tea
At 4 o'clock, the delightful Luan Hockley charmed the audience with her beautiful voice and lively personality. Ever the professional, she performed her first set with the 'dominator' oven alongside her on the stage as it was still too hot to be removed.
Meanwhile, in the marquee, Aubergine Cookshop ran a 'preserving clinic' in which the public could ask about how to make jams, pickles and more.
And the Bacchus speed wine tasting sessions were also very popular with nearly 20 people turning up for one of the 15 minute segements. It gave participants a chance to develop their nose under an experienced taster.
The highlight of the evening was the Festival Feast; the three course meal and wine or beer for £10. It was the same menu as lunch, though with twice as many tickets selling for the evening than for the earlier sitting.
The Bull's selection of fantastic starters came first - served in their beer tent. Much Ado's paella was cooked in giant vessels, though judging by the queues it was almost too popular.
For pudding, the pancake committee (all volunteers) did an amazing job to produce pancakes with a filling and ice cream. They made an estimated 800 during the Festival.
Luan Hockley came back on to perform for the evening crowd, followed by 'Diva Sophia'. Both were fantastic vocalists who added to the relaxing atmosphere as the sun went down.
With tea lights on the tables and bottles of wine and pints of beer consumed in vast number, it was difficult to get some in the audience to leave the Market Place.
Most seemed to feel the event was a success. And will there be another? Well, already people have been taking notes for improvements if the Big Olney Food Festival returns next year...