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Marlborough’s first food festival will rise to the occasion this weekend no matter fears about the weather

Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro ContaldoAntonio Carluccio and Gennaro ContaldoFingers are crossed for good weather this weekend as Marlborough’s debut Food and Wine Festival takes off on the Common with an expected 8,000 people arriving to sample the culinary delights on offer and enjoy themselves.

There will be more than 100 exhibitors on display plus a host of celebrity chefs showing off their skills, other demonstrations and even musical interludes, details of which you can discover by clicking on the festival box on the side of this page.

Organiser John Rhodes, responsible for Cheltenham’s similar highly successful annual festivals, prefers not to delve into the weather forecast – there are some rain showers due – or even check on ticket sales.

“It’s looking at the crystal ball in trying to estimate what will happen,” he told Marlborough News Online. “We won’t know if our first fair here in Marlborough has been a great success and what the actual turnout is until Sunday night.

“That’s because there are other factors that come into play, among them the weather. And I tend to stay away from looking at the forecast because the weather is something totally out of my control.

“So instead of worrying about it we just have to get on with creating a great festival. We hope to see loads of people there. So my message is do come along, enjoy yourselves and have a great day out, rain or shine.”

He is aware that the current austerity regime has resulted in the closure of some 50 farmers’ markets across the country, regular customers now reducing their spending and heading instead for cut-price supermarkets.

But that downward turn has not hit food festivals – because people see them more as a day out for family and friends, as well as a chance to taste – and purchase – quality produce not tried before.

“The end of some farmers’ markets is a great shame,” he added. “Fortunately for us people do see food festivals as something different, as a day out, a time when they can take their family or friends with them.

“We offer a complete package, a whole day of activities which people see as entertainment -- and there is also an educational side to festivals – something they can enjoy and always remember the variety of topics and talks.

“People can come along and learn about different aspects of food, some beneficial from which they can gain knowledge and take it away with them.”

There are benefits too, he believes for exhibitors and producers at the growing number of food fairs.

“They provide a way for producersto find another revenue stream for their business that may have had a down turn too at weekly farmers’ markets because an increasing number of people are now going to the Aldi and Lidl supermarket sites,” he explained.

“It’s all very well to be able to grow a field full of cabbages or asparagus or something like that, but producers do need to go beyond the farm gate and look at how they market their produce in the most imaginative and creative ways.

“So there are advantages all round in food festivals.”

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