Innovative food, wine and beer products, matched with magnificent Autumn weather attracted crowds of more than 7,000 people at last weekends Grampians Grape Escape The Wine and Food Festival, breaking all attendance records in the events 18-year history.
Foodies visited from local regions, throughout Victoria and interstate. There were also a number of tourists from overseas who integrated the Festival with their travel plans within the Grampians National Park.
Celebrity chef Ed Halmagyi drew the big crowds for his twice-daily cooking demonstrations, while his exclusive Sunday brunch for an intimate group of 20 was also a huge success.
Hamilton chef Afton Barber created a delicious four-course fine-dining experience for over 100 guests at the annual Festival dinner on Saturday night. Guests also enjoyed a wide selection of Western Victorian wines, while Halmagyi provided entertainment as MC.
Chef Ed Halmaygi toasts Grape Escape success
Spirited bidding as part of the Grampians Winemakers Inc Barrique Auction on Saturday quickly sold 300 bottles of exclusive 2007 Grampians Shiraz amongst enthusiastic punters, raising an impressive sum of $12,086 (average bottle price was $44).
Event organiser Mike DiLisio said the organising committee was absolutely thrilled with this years attendance figures which surpassed last years figures by more than 1,000.
People of all ages attended the Festival, from dedicated food and wine lovers wanting to stock up their pantry, to families wanting a great day out with live music and childrens entertainment, Mike DiLisio said.
Talking amongst the crowd there seemed to be a lot of people visiting for the first time, which is one of our main objectives. They will hopefully come back next year with friends or family.
Mike DiLisio also attributed the weekends success to having the right mix of exhibitors.
This year we were overwhelmed by exhibitor applications, he said. Each year we try to keep the mix interesting so we welcomed quite a few new exhibitors such as the breweries which were a big hit. I think the businesses involved would be very pleased with the kind of exposure and sales they had on the weekend.
Mike DiLisio predicted even bigger success for 2010.
During the 18-year history we have always enjoyed a steady attendance of dedicated foodies who love the weekend away in the Grampians, he said.
But with Farmers Markets now so popular in the metropolitan areas, and many people coming to the regional areas to pursue tree-change farming or viticulture, I feel like this Festival can only continue to grow.
GoSee Jayco Discovery and Captiva at Lake Fyans Holiday Park jpg
Crowds flock to Eddie Halmagyi cooking demonstration
Day 1 entrance crowds at opening time
Latte art by Grape Escape barista Russell Colyer