As the first weekend of October rolled in you would expect most people to be getting ready for Halloween. Hanging up decorations far too early and shops being stocked for a month already with sweets. However, the small town of Stone done no such thing. The town kicked of the month with their annual Food Festival.
Every first weekend of October the town of Stone has held their festival. A time and place where they encourage local businesses and people to come together and celebrate the food and drink from local business owners. The festival takes place all over Stone as businesses participate in activities and offer deals concurrently to the duration of the festival. Yet, the main part takes place in Westbridge Park from Friday to Sunday.
When you walk into the park you are met with rows of vendors on every side of you. Alcohol to the immediate left - gin in abundance. Plus the smell of smoked BBQ. Under two giant tents were the locals stands. Everything you could want. If you have a sweet tooth there were cakes, brownies and a myriad of puddings. For those who found themselves drawn to savoury items, you would not have left disappointed either. There was a multiple pastie vendors and one of my personal favourites, jerky.
One of the most interesting things I got to do during the day was attend a beer tasting talk. The selection of beers were from the local brewer Slater's. Hosts of the talk taught us what aspects to look out for. For example flavour notes, smoothness and aftertastes. One of the beers on offer was Haka which is known to have a sweet aroma and taste. Unfortunately I found I do not have a tongue for beer and I found they all tasted the same. Attendees were engaged and asking questions, so they must be more experienced beer drinkers.
At the festival I managed to speak to some of the vendors about their experiences how the festival has helped them and other business owners.
Sheryl Walker from The Weston Biltong Company Ltd said that the festival has a positive effect for her business “we are quite a local business, we’re based in Cheshire, so we get a lot of repeat custom from here and a lot of our regular customers come to Stone as well, so it’s really nice to see some friendly faces. We also get to meet some new people”. Continuing with “We sell online as well, it’s really great so if they like our product they can then rebuy it online and we will post it out to them”
Six year veteran vendor for the festival Chris Gowens who worked at the Mexican street food outlet ‘Lets go Mexicana’ also agreed that the festival had its benefits for businesses and Stone. “trade has been good, feedback has been good. So why wouldn't we come back next year.”
When visiting the fair you are hit with the initial shock of how expensive some of the food is from the sellers, but it is important to remember that it is all local homemade products. By talking to to the vendors, you could hear the passion that they had for their trade. Sheryl Walker commented on the matter: “You are paying for the quality definitely and the thing is as well it’s artisan. I would have said the bulk of it is handmade by the producer, they are selling it. You can ask them questions and they know about the product”[...] “You know exactly what you are getting when you get it from a local producer and you are supporting the local economy as well”
Next year will mark the 15th year anniversary since the festivals humble beginnings and it will be exciting to see what the festival does to celebrate - with the help of attendees feedback.
First time visitor of the Festival Kaylea Jayne Dalton said: “I probably would come back. There were lots of things to see and do. There are so many nice food stands and I would consider myself an adventurous eater so I was in my element. Unfortunately my tiny belly couldn’t handle all the great looking food in one day.” Following up with “Something that would make this festival even better is more health foods. The keto diet is quite popular at the moment and it would be quite nice to see variations of this, additionally to have more inclusive foods for those people with special dietary needs.”
As a vendor Chris Gowens commented that he would like more activities and entertainment on the Friday: “They have more licenses to do more outside events in Stone” [...] “Friday is the much quieter day over the weekend.”
The Stone Food Festival was a very enjoyable time and I am sad I did only go for the one day. Going for the whole three days would be a great time for all. More importantly, it would give you enough time to try all of spectacular looking food and drink. Just be prepared to pay that little bit more for the quality.