The organisers of the weather-battered Saltburn Food Festival have praised the “very special” community spirit that helped ensure a memorable day for thousands of visitors despite the challenging conditions.
With forecasters predicting heavy rain and gusts of well over 40 miles per hour throughout Sunday afternoon, the agonising decision was taken to cancel all outdoor stalls that required gazebos.
“It was an incredibly difficult call to make, but safety comes first,” said organiser Lorna Jackson. “By four o’clock on Saturday the weather forecast was looking extremely grim and it was without any doubt the right thing to do.”
But despite months of detailed plans having to be cast aside, townsfolk rallied round with offers of support and indoor facilities that could be used to help rescue a scaled-down event.
“Saltburn is a wonderful place and everyone rallied round and help in any way they could,” said Lorna.
“We’re so grateful for the offers that came in from venues including the Community Theatre, the Emmanuel Church, Saltburn House and the Spa Hotel.
“We were able to find space for all those traders who were able to operate indoors and I’m delighted with the way people reacted and how everyone played their part.
“So many small businesses had been working so hard baking fresh bread and cakes and producing sausages and pies that would have gone to waste if it couldn’t be sold.
“It was so hard to tell them we were cancelling the outdoor part of the festival, but they realised we had no option and have been incredibly supportive.
“Local businesses have also helped in any way they can – the Hop and Vine bar even allowed Shorties’ gin bar to come and set up inside their premises. To see one business helping another that way really epitomises the spirit of the festival and of our community.”
Around 20,000 hungry festivalgoers were expected to throng the streets for what has become one of the most eagerly anticipated days in the foodie calendar.
“I was absolutely gutted for all the thousands of people who were looking forward to coming,” said Lorna, who runs Real Meals café and deli in Milton Street.
“We’d lined up more outdoor café areas and pop-up street traders than ever before, including all the favourites returning from the past five years and dozens of new traders who were looking forward to coming to Saltburn for the first time, having heard how well supported the event is.
“Everyone was incredibly excited and ready to enjoy an amazing atmosphere and a good old fashioned street party.”
Planned park and ride services were cancelled but many people still made their way to the town by car, bus and train and visitors queued patiently throughout the day for their turn to enter the Community Theatre.
Matthew Jordan, of the Little Korean, of Norton, which set up in the Emmanuel Church Hall, said: “It’s fantastic that they’ve been able to do something like this for the traders. I was going to be a big loss for all of us but this has been a lifeline and made the most of a bad situation and the support from all the people has been fantastic as well.”
Aaron Singh, from Thornaby’s The Little Indian, was manning the stall along with his brother, Ryan, while other family members looked after their hot food van in Milton Street.
“It’s my favourite festival out of all the ones we do, with lots of people and a lot of fun,” said Aaron. “It’s a shame about the weather but it’s great that we’ve still been able to do something.”
Lorna remains upbeat despite the disappointment of having to run a scaled-down event and has vowed that the festival will be back better than ever next year.
“We’ve had ten years of monthly farmers’ markets without having to cancel anything and five years of good weather for the food festival,” she said.
“Hopefully we’ve now had our share of wind and rain in one day and will have another five years of sunshine after this!”
The outdoor Live Cookery Theatre was called off, while the John McGough acoustic music stage was moved from outside Signals Bistro to an upstairs room in the venue.
Among the traders who came on Sunday were Brickyard Bakery, La Focaccia, Le Mini Macaron, Pie Jackers, Stateside Treat Emporium, Tees Cider, Teesdale Cheesemakers, The Green Guerrilla, The Little Indian, The Twisted Chilli, Autumn Harvest, Broomhill Farm, Roots & Fruits, Yorkshire Dales Cheese, Brown and Blond, Collinsons Pork on Your Fork Lacey’s Cheese, Parlour Made, Renaissance Patisserie, Sausology, Simply Cheesecake, The Cumbrian Pie Company, The Goat Company, The Little Korean, Urban Fudge, Bee Nice Beauty Products and Swine Dining.