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Sunshine, chillis and fresh flavours draw record numbers to Farnham Food and Drink Festival 

Aerial shot of street and large crowd of people

Thousands of people flocked to Farnham town centre for the eagerly awaited Food and Drink Festival (on 25 September). 

More people than ever before made the most of the huge range of food and drink related stalls featuring chefs, specialist food producers, new products and plenty to eat and drink. The rain stayed away, prompting families and shoppers to make a day of it and stay for brunch, lunch and afternoon snacks.

“New for this year was a drinks demonstration stage and live music in the Bush Hotel Courtyard which was also a welcome place to sit down and relax. With Castle Street and The Borough closed to traffic and extra space at the Bush Hotel and Central car park, we were able to pack this year’s festival with hundreds of experts, sellers, demonstrations and the regular monthly Farmers’ Market,” says Councillor Kika Mirylees, Farnham Town Council’s Lead Member for Tourism and Events.

“Locals came out in their droves to enjoy the festival spirit and we know that the event attracts visitors from far and wide, too. It’s a brilliant opportunity to find new foods, flavour trends and ideas. My highlights this year were the chef demonstrations; I love picking up tips to try at home but it’s also wonderful to spot familiar faces in the crowd, try out lots of samples and even make a purchase or two,” added Councillor Mirylees.

The ever-popular chilli eating competition entertained the crowds. As the competition progressed through increasingly hot chillies, onlookers shouted “Do it, do it!” and “More!” while the competitors sweated, dabbed their lips and drank milk to cool their mouths. 

The Mayor of Farnham, Councillor Alan Earwaker, watched the competition and presented the prizes. “The atmosphere was absolutely electric as one-by-one competitors withdrew, leaving just two brave finalists,” he says. “The winners were decided in the final round when Ben Goscombe and Liam Gardner munched their way through a selection of six mixed chillies in, frankly, a scary range of colours and shapes. There were shrieks and screams – and that was just the crowd! Ben was our last man standing and Liam our valiant runner up. Well done to both of them and all the competitors.”

Farnham Town Council organises the annual competition with support from gold sponsors which this year included the Bush Hotel, Farnham Veterinary Hospital and Kidd Rapinet Solicitors.

Stalls this year included cuisine from around the world, cookery writers, food experts and chefs at the top of their game. The festival is one of the largest one-day festivals in the South East, drawing in visitors to the town from Surrey, Hampshire and beyond.

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