THE growing success of the Wimborne Food Festival is playing a vital part in boosting the town's image and economy according to a local business representative.
The event last weekend was the most popular in the festival's five-year history as thousands flocked into the town to experience a cornucopia of sounds, sights and flavours.
Featuring the very best in local produce and free entertainment for people of all ages, organisers estimate that more than 20,000 visitors came to the town from all over the county and beyond.
Martin Tidd, director of Wimborne Business Improvement District, said: "It's events like this one that are making Wimborne into a real Dorset destination. It's fantastic for the town and brings people in from Bournemouth and Poole who wouldn't normally come to Wimborne.
"Overall it's been absolutely superb."
Wimborne resident Val Cooper said: "The whole festival has been thoroughly enjoyable. There's been some super entertainment and I particularly enjoyed the wine tasting this morning."
Valerie Hoy, from Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, said: "It's a fantastic event – really well organised with plenty of things to do and see, especially for the grandchildren."
And it was not only the visitors who had a great weekend. Celebrity chef Sophie Grigson was a huge draw for her demonstrations in the Andrew David and Honeybrook Farm Cookery Theatre, where a number of well-known national and local cooks showcased their skills.
She said: "I love food festivals like this and it's really nice to have one at this time of the year when you've got all the lovely autumnal produce – all the lovely colours and tastes – it's just great."
Fellow TV chef Jun Tanaka, who wowed fans with a delicious duck dish, added: "This is a wonderful celebration of local food which is the most important thing for me. Local produce is key to cooking."
And the traders, too, were delighted as they packed up their stalls and headed for home with empty crates and boxes.
Joy Michaud from Sea Spring Seeds said: "You just get so many people here. I don't know where they come from – it's only a small town."
Georgie Jones from Dorset Smokery added: "The guys were thinking it was a bit quiet early on Saturday and then it all kicked off. Before you knew it, it was half past three. There's a great ambience, which is what this place is so good for."