A tourism supremo hailed the Hamper Llangollen food festival as the best ever and said it crowned a “golden age” of artisan produce in Wales.
The popular event, recognised as one of the top 10 food festivals in the UK, drew in thousands of food lovers, all hungry to sample and buy everything from the finest cheeses and freshest meat to designer ice cream and cookies.
A host of new products were unveiled, some of which were specially devised for the show, and there were also practical cooking demonstrations from top chefs.
One of the visitors was Ken Skates, Wales’s Deputy Minister for Tourism and Culture and local Clwyd South Assembly Member.
He said: “The festival has grown every year in spectacular fashion but this is the biggest and best yet.
“It’s much busier than I have ever seen it before. Hamper Llangollen is now one of the biggest food festivals anywhere in Wales and makes an enormous contribution to the local economy in the order of £500,000 a year.
“We are rapidly entering a golden age of artisan food and drink in Wales and this festival is helping to crown and promote that.”
Mr Skates added: “I’d like to pay tribute to the organisers for all the hard work which goes into making it the success it is and also the many exhibitors who come here to showcase their fantastic produce and goods.”
Festival chairman Colin Loughlin said this year’s Hamper Llangollen had been the busiest so far.
He added: “We had 111 stallholders, 13 of whom were making their debut with us. That’s particularly pleasing because it’s our constant aim to attract new exhibitors to make it as diverse as we can.
“The event gives a huge boost to the local economy and this year we reckon that amounts to at least half a million pounds.
“A number of local charities, including our chosen one Nightingale House, had a presence at the festival and attracted plenty of support which is marvellous to see.
“Myself and fellow organisers are extremely happy with the way everything went.”
Trying a tipple at Rosie’s Cider out in the pavilion exhibition area was retired baker Alwyn Thomas from Denbigh.
He said: “I come to Hamper Llangollen every year because I’m very much a foodie person having run my own bakery for many years.
“I’ve been sampling the Black Bart cider which is particularly good and has a really nice flavour.”
Delighted with this verdict was Steve Hughes who has been running Rosie’s Cider from its base in Llandegla for the past 10 years.
“I’m glad they like it because all my cider is made from the finest local apples, many of which come from our own 17-acre orchard,” he said.
“I exhibit at Hamper Llangollen every year because it’s my local event and attracts so many people.”
Sampling the goodies from a range of stalls were Ben Davis from Corwen and his six-year-old daughter, Orla Davis-Wood.
Ben said: “I’ve been trying out the coffee and Orla’s having a bit of everything as we go round the stands.
“We like to come to Llangollen because the variety and quality of food and drink available here is illuminating.”
Wrexham Lager has been making a big impression on discerning drinkers since it was reintroduced a few years ago following a long break in production.
Doing a roaring trade on their stall were brewing company director Janet Gaffey and her daughter Emma.
Janet said: “This is the fourth year we’ve brought our lager along to Llangollen for people to try and it’s going down very well.
“We like to show off the lager at Llangollen because it’s such a good local show that attracts so many visitors.”
Lapping up his sample of Wrexham’s finest was Adrian Taffinder from Marford and his son Gareth from Tanyfron.
Adrian said: “I’m a big fan of this lager and when they stopped making it some years ago it made me go crazy. So when they brought it back I thought it was fantastic and being able to have a taste of it here is great.
“I like to visit the Llangollen festival and have been here most years. There’s a good range of produce and it’s good to meet the people who make and sell it and to give them a bit of feedback.”
One of the producers who came up with a new line especially for this year’s festival was Chilly Cow ice cream based at Llanychan, near Ruthin.
Hannah Griffiths, who works on flavour development for the company, said: “We devised a honey and lavender ice cream for the show and we’ve had lots of people trying it out.
“In the first few hours on Saturday about 30 people must have sampled it and many of them said they’d be buying it.
“We’ll definitely be coming back here next year.”
Amongst those impressed with the new variety of ice cream was Guto Jones and his partner Julie Bowyer from Higher Kinnerton who were there with Julie’s mum, Beryl Gregory, from Chester.
Julie said: “It’s great to try something that’s completely new on the market and the honey and lavender was brilliant.
“Although my mum comes here every year it’s my first time at Llangollen but I’ll certainly be coming again.”
Beryl said: “The new ice cream is very creamy and just delicious.”
Trying out the apple cake at the stand of Corwen-based Temptations were Ceinwen and Gwynne Thomas from Wrexham.
Ceinwen said: “It’s really nice and I enjoyed the sample. I come to this show every year because my husband and I really enjoy trying out the different things on offer.”
Chrissie Ashworth, who runs Temptations, said: “The cake they tried is made from locally grown apples because I like to use the ingredients that are available at any particular time of the year.
“Hamper Llangollen is my favourite show because it has such a fantastic family atmosphere.”
And although she only started her Rhyl-based company, Mama Zo’s, which specialises in home-made cookies and lemonade in July this year, owner Zoe Gamble said having a stand at Hamper Llangollen was a must for her.
“It’s a very important festival and we couldn’t afford to miss it,” she said.
“We’ve been very busy and people have been trying out our entire range. Everything is made by hand and I even squeeze the fruit for our lemonade myself.”
Another major highlight of the festival was the cookery demonstrations by top chefs over both days.
These included a popular appearance by Luke Thomas, Britain’s youngest head chef from Connah’s Quay who now has restaurants in Chester, the Cotswolds and Berkshire.
Another crowd-puller on both Saturday and Sunday was Graham Tinsley MBE, executive chef at Carden Park Gold Resort and Spa and director of Cowny’s Castle Hotel.
Comedian Silky swapped the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for Hamper Llangollen to do stand-up behind a cooker rather on the stage in his debut culinary demo, which was a hit with the audience.