The sixth annual Galway Food Festival, which took place over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, welcomed a record-breaking 80,000 visitors to Galway, with thousands attending the many in-house tasting events, food tours, food talks, the open air market at Fishmarket Square, Halla Bia at the former Connacht Tribune Print Works, and Breaking Bread on Easter Monday.
Businesses around the city also reported a bumper weekend of sales as a result of the thousands of visitors who flocked to the city to avail of the 100 food-based events celebrating ‘Food and the Community’ during the four-day festival.
Huge numbers visited Galway’s first temporary indoor food hall, Halla Bia, where almost 30 indigenous food producers from along the Wild Atlantic Way showcased their produce. Such was the success of the market that many businesses sold out of their produce on Easter Saturday and had to replenish stock for Easter Sunday.
Another festival hit that attracted huge crowds was Breaking Bread on Easter Monday. Several local community groups — including Galway's Indian, Malaysian, Lithuanian, Traveller, Mexican, Nigerian, Polish, Ghanaian, and French communities — prepared and shared their traditional and modern dishes with thousands of visitors who got to taste foods from around the world. The event also included members from One World Tapestry Group, residents of Great Western Direct Provision centres, and residents of Eglinton House in Galway.
Festival organiser and owner of Builín Blasta Café and Bakery in Spiddal, Heather Flaherty, said that Halla Bia and Breaking Bread, both first time events at this year's festival, were a phenomenal success. “Halla Bia opened a dialogue among traders, the public, and the city council about the importance of a permanent indoor market for Galway," she added. "The support from all parties indicates that the drive and desire is there for a permanent space to showcase and highlight the fabulous products and producers in Galway city and county. A permanent indoor market would give small businesses a great place to start and grow their business and would contribute hugely to Galway's already thriving food industry.
"Breaking Bread brought over 14 different cultural communities together in one place to share their food and their stories, and the variety and diversity at the event was staggering," Ms Flaherty continued. "Galway is a melting pot of different communities and it is time to embrace them, welcome them, and learn about their culture and their food. Huge thanks to Galway 2020 and Creative Ireland for helping us put this event together.”
Galway Food Festival was the first major food-based event in the city since Galway, west of Ireland, was designated a European Regions of Gastronomy (ERG ) for 2018. Gary McMahon of Galway City Council, a main sponsor of the event, said the festival has become a firm fixture in Galway's festival calendar.
"Galway City Council looks forward to next year when, as part of our designation as European Region of Gastronomy 2018, we will build on this year’s great success and visibility for everything foodie in the city of Galway in partnership with Galway Food Festival," he said.
Alan Farrell, senior executive officer with Galway County Council and one of the drivers of the ERG, said: “The weekend was a phenomenal success and an excellent example of how a strong partnership and cooperative working can have a huge impact. ERG is about all of us, it needs buy-in from all members of the community in order for it to reach its potential and if last weekend is anything to go by, that is there in abundance. The ERG partners and steering committee are very appreciative of the way the festival organisers embraced ERG and it has proven to be a great example of how we can build on what we have already in Galway.
"We must now build on the momentum of the weekend and deliver on our priority focus areas — health and education, supporting SMEs and innovation, celebrating cultural diversity, [and] linking urban/rural and sustainability. If all festivals work as closely with us and engage ERG with the same enthusiasm as the festival, I am confident the initiative will have a significant impact and that it will deliver beyond our greatest expectations. I would encourage all interested parties to check out our website www.galwaygastronomy.ie and to contact us about becoming involved.”
For photos and highlights visit www.galwayfoodfestival.com, and follow Galway Food Festival on Facebook and on Twitter @Galwayfood and #GFF17.