WITH more than 30,000 expected to visit the Bishop Auckland Food Festival for a second year in a row, it is hard to believe the event was started by just ten volunteers.
Not deterred by the fear of failure, the group, which included the now Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowdon, had just weeks to prepare for the first one 11 years ago, and spent all the time they could attracting nearly 50 stall holders.
To their surprise, 5,000 people turned out for the one-day event.
Beryl Anderson, who was one of the original volunteers and now helps organise the event for Durham County Council, said: “All the time we were organising it, all we could think of was ‘will people come to Bishop Auckland’ because it was different.
“The first one was all about things like jams and pies. We also embraced crafters. We wanted to support as many local people as possible.
“When the day came, the stallholders were jolly and it was busy.
We couldn’t believe it. By the end we were burnt out and we had made a rod for our own backs, but it was a huge success.
“We knew then we had to do it again. It took over our lives, but we loved it. We thought we have to make it bigger.”
After a few years, the group took the decision to hand it over to Durham County Council to run it.
Mrs Anderson added: “It got too big for an amateur society. It was a lot of work.”
Organisers then decided to make the food festival a two-day event because it had become so popular.
“In one day, we had 26,000 people,” said Mrs Anderson. “It was just ridiculous. We knew we had to make it two days to make it a better experience for everyone.
“We have the same footprint for both days and it means you can walk around and explore properly. Everyone benefited, the visitors and the stallholders.”
This year, the festival will boast about 160 stalls and trailers in the Market Place and the grounds of Auckland Castle.
It will showcase the best homegrown and handmade produce from County Durham and the wider region and, this year, all events and activities will be free.
Mrs Anderson said: “It is a lovely festival.”