2009: Where it all began. Organised by the Olney Chamber of Trade, it was a bit rough and ready. Trestle tables, no table cloths. Little protection from the weather, which fortunately was unusually warm for late September. Food was supplied by the local restaurants, via a £10 Festival Feast ticket. It got you starters from The Bull Inn, a choice of Paella from Much Ado Delicatessen or the Courtyard Grill. And, of course, pancakes for dessert. All washed down with beer or wine. The locals loved it, and it was the start of something really rather special.
2010: The set ticket price went up to £15. But this year, you could also pay as you go. Very well supported by the local restaurants and food suppliers including Pastures Farm, The Four Pillars, The Old Shanghai, Beans, Much Ado, The Bull, Bacchus and The Two Brewers. This year we got table cloths! The weather wasn’t so great, but it didn’t put off the locals. I remember the queues for Much Ado’s Paella were long – but were very worth the wait.
2011: A new payment model was introduced with prepaid vouchers at £2.50 each. A nice idea, but made the pricing inflexible. It meant the soup, and the chicken roll (clearly not viable at £2.50) were exoensive at £5 ! It was the first, maybe the only, year we got oysters. Hopping Mad brewery made their first appearance. As did the now famous festival t-shirt. We ate Venison and Duck Egg Scotch Eggs from the Bull and Butternut Squash Chilli from Beans.
2012: This year the ticket system was abolished. A huge improvement with people simply paying as they went. For the first time, you could properly ‘graze’. The queues though, for the bar, were a big problem with 30 minute waiting time for a beer. The stand out food this year, was the Bull’s Deli Board and Much Ado’s Catalan Chicken Stew. Things were getting interesting.
2013: This is the year it started feeling like a proper food festival. And possibly the first year it ran over two days? The Emberton Smoked Garlic stand gently scented the air. Newcomers, Melis, Feast and Deli Vegetarian brought a certain flair. Memorable dishes were a Pan Fried Guinea Fowl (Pastures Farm and Bell & Bear joint effort) and Savoury Crumpets with gourmet toppings from Café Rosco.
2014: The festival really starts to come into its own, with a good mix of local restaurants and invited street food. Corn on the Cob was a big favourite. It was the first year of JJEB’s Goat Curry, which sold out in just a few hours. The Bell and Bear did Mussels, there was a VIP bus bar. My favourites this year? The Cowpers Oak scotch egg and a steak sandwich made with Wagu beef in Teriyaki sauce, from Polar Events a street food vendor.
2015: We’ve settled into a groove now. We know how it rolls. Good Times Café won the best newcomer award with their first class grilled cheese sandwich. Browns Gourmet sausages surprised with the spicy Firecracker. Donzella made their first appearance with a range of delicious dishes including vegetarian delight, Parmigiana. The goat curry, back for their second year, managed to keep their supply going through to Sunday, but tasting it, you could understand how it sold out so fast the previous year.
2016: It’s feeling pretty professional. Well managed, exciting foods. Wildleaf took away the best overall award with a range of delicious stews. A street vendor called OMG, cooked a cheeseburger to beat all cheeseburgers. Amphawan and the Belgian Fries van make their first appearances – and those chips are good!. Gabriella visits on Sunday, with her delightful pick and mix biscuit stall.
2017: Amazing how the festival has developed. Now much more about street food than the local establishments. Stand out dishes last year were Clucking Oinks with their Bell and Bear fusion – the southern fried chicken with Japanese influences being superb. Donzella rustled up a very tasty Frito Misto. Saf’s Kitchen were freshly frying Samosa and other Indian delights. And the sunny Sunday was refreshed with Ganders’ Goat Ice Cream. Absolutely superb.
2018: Can it really get any better? Let’s hope so. The balance is swinging back to local establishments. The Cherry Tree will be making a welcome appearance with their burgers and it is great to see that The Bull are returning with a hog roast. Fabulous that these two local establishments are getting stuck in and supporting the festival.