The city enjoyed the sweet taste of success over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend as the Galway Food Festival attracted an estimated 80,000 visitors – a record for the annual event in this its sixth year.
Visitors enjoyed the many in-house tasting events, food tours and talks, the open-air market at Fishmarket Square, and Breaking Bread on Easter Monday.
Halla Bia at the former Connacht Tribune Print Works was Galway’s first temporary indoor food hall, where almost 30 indigenous food producers from along the Wild Atlantic Way showcased their produce.
It was a huge hit with foodies and, according to organisers, has reignited the debate around the need for a permanent indoor market in the city.
Festival organiser and owner of Builín Blasta Café and Bakery in Spiddal, Heather Flaherty, said: “Halla Bia opened a dialogue among traders, the public and the City Council about the importance of a permanent indoor market for Galway.
“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.”
Breda Fox, Head of Local Enterprise Office Galway, sponsors of the indoor market, said: “The Food Hall was an essential element of the festival for small producers. It allows small producers to showcase their range and quality of food and meet with customers including locals and visitors on a busy bank holiday weekend.”
Businesses around the city also confirmed a bumper weekend of sales resulting from the thousands of visitors who flocked into Galway to avail of the 100 food-based events celebrating food and the community during the five-day festival.
Another festival hit that attracted huge crowds was Breaking Bread on Easter Monday. Several community groups living in Galway prepared and shared their traditional and modern dishes with up to 9,000 visitors who got to taste dishes from around the world.
The ethnic groups showcasing their delicacies included the Indian, Malaysian, Lithuanian, Traveller, Mexican, Nigerian, Polish, Ghanaian, Japanese and French communities.
It also included members from One World Tapestry Group, as well as asylum seekers who are residents of the city’s two Direct Provision centres, the Great Western at Eyre Square and Eglinton House in Salthill.
Ms Flaherty said: “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. 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.
“It was an event that opened doors and hearts, inspired new projects and collaborations and highlighted the importance that food has in bringing people together.”
Gary McMahon from Galway City Council, the main sponsor, said: “Now a five-day event, we have a spectacular and sustainable festival celebrating our gastronomy, our hospitality and our sense of fun and congeniality that engages both residents and visitors to the city.
“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.”
Galway Food Festival 2017 was the first official outing and major public awareness campaign since Galway, West of Ireland was designated a European Regions of Gastronomy for 2018.
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.”