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THIS year’s Food and River Festival truly was an event of two halves – with glorious sunshine on the Saturday, followed by grey clouds and rain on the Sunday, 2nd and 3rd September.
Attractions included a raft race, boat rides, ‘try canoeing’ sessions, a zip wire across the river, a chilli-eating contest, live music, a climbing wall and food and drink from over 70 stalls.
Festival organiser Adrienne Westbrook said, “The weather was wonderful on Saturday and we had crowds of people enjoying the atmosphere and activities. It was not so kind on Sunday, which was a shame as it did discourage visitors, which was not good for the majority of our traders on the biggest of the two days.
“Maybe we should think about spreading the risk by extending the food aspect across both days – we would be incredibly unlucky to have two bad days. We will certainly think about this for next year,”
On the warm and sunny Saturday, events got under way in the King George V Park and by the river including a new attraction, the Cooper Tires zip wire challenge, a 7.3m climbing wall, which was supervised by Wiltshire Outdoor Learning Team, and boat trips on the River Avon, courtesy of the Calne & Chippenham branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. Also on the river were The Wilderness Boats, steam launches, canoes and kayaks and ‘try canoeing’ sessions offered by the Wiltshire Youth Canoe Club (WYCC). Bradford on Avon sub-aqua club also put on a display of diving.
The Raft Race was a highlight of the day, where competitors paddled their homemade craft up the river and back. One raft entry, crewed by staff from Melksham-based dairy company, Coombe Castle, was cleverly disguised as a wedge of cheese. This year, both junior and senior categories were won by the Chippenham Young Farmers, and both teams received medals plus £100 prize for each category, donated by Foxhangers Boat Builders.
At the end of the afternoon, families enjoyed sitting in the sun, enjoying picnics and drinks from Box Steam Brewery, whilst they listened to the Warminster Military Wives Choir, followed by the Cross Guns Singers.
Next day, on Sunday, stalwart supporters of the festival braved the rain to sample food and drink from over 70 stalls plus the Leekes Country Kitchen Marquee, which also hosted the fiery and stomach-churning chilli-eating competition where competitors abuse their taste buds by eating chillies of increasing heat.
Festival organiser Adrienne Westbrook said, “The winner once again was Thomas Chiad, although even he shied away from the last one – over 1,000,000 heat units on the Scoville scale! A worthy winner of the contest, although we do wonder whether he actually has any working taste buds left to enjoy good old cottage pie!
“Thank you very much to our wonderful sponsors, especially Leekes, and thank you to everyone who braved the weather on Sunday, came along, and still had a good time. See you next year!”