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Hampton Festival produces local wonders

LOVING LOCAL: Produce is at the centre of the Hampton Festival, which also focuses the spotlight on local art, craft and music.
LOVING LOCAL: Produce is at the centre of the Hampton Festival, which also focuses the spotlight on local art, craft and music. Megan Rizzo

IT takes over 100 volunteers, seven months, and a whole lot of great food, art, music, love and dedication to the High Country to make the Hampton Festival the huge success it is each year.

And this year you can get priority fast-lane access to the main festival day on Sunday, May 20, as well as a discounted price and go in the draw for two nights at Tweeters Country Retreat just by buying your tickets for $10 online before the event.

Festival organiser Wendy Allen is excited about the festival's 16th year, with a program which, for the second year runs over three days, with the sold-out Farmers La Femme celebration of High Country Dinner on the Friday night and workshops and the art exhibition preview on the Saturday, culminating in the Hampton Food and Arts Festival on Sunday.

Ash Martin, executive chef at Homage Restaurant, Spicer's Hidden Vale is conducting cooking demonstrations as this year's celebrity chef.
Ash Martin, executive chef at Homage Restaurant, Spicer's Hidden Vale is conducting cooking demonstrations as this year's celebrity chef.

"We have a really wide demographic, because we appeal to everyone from older visitors to young foodie couples and families," Wendy said of the over 4000 people expected to attend this year.

The aim is to give people "a really nice experience in the High Country and encourage them to stay or to come back and explore".

"We have a lot of niche produce in the Hampton area, including blueberries, walnuts, persimmons, passionfruit, limes, rhubarb, olives and olive oil and, of course, it's a big avocado area," Wendy said.

"It's all about coming and trying things you may never have experienced, like persimmons which, unlike the original astringent variety, today are beautiful and sweet with cheese and you can eat crisp like an apple or keep till they are softer.

"Even the blueberries, which you can buy a version of in the supermarket, are not a patch on what you will taste here freshly grown straight off the farm."

You can learn more from the farmers at their stalls or speaking at the Celebrity Chef Cooking Demonstrations, this year featuring Ash Martin, executive chef at Homage Restaurant, Spicer's Hidden Vale.

There's also beer appreciation sessions with the guru of beer Matt Kirkegaard, and a host of tastes at stalls run by local restaurants and wineries.

Away from the food, the festival also aims to foster arts in the community, with the Hampton Art Exhibition open to the works of artists within a 50km radius of Hampton.

There are four artists in residence on Sunday - Barbara Scott's fluid acrylics, Marie Kruger weaving, Julie Sweeney eco-printing on natural fibres and Margaret Shaw's mosaics - carrying out demonstrations of their skills to give visitors an insight into different mediums and crafts.

And, Wendy said, you have to make time to sit back among the blue gums and enjoy the music, which this year has a Blues theme.

Tickets at the gate on the day are still just $12 per person, with children under 12 free.

And if you've missed out on workshops this year, don't forget to get in early for next year's event, and for this year's Winter Harvest Long Lunch on August 11, bookings for which will open soon.

To find out more or buy tickets go to www.hamptonfestival.com.

Topics:  alison houston hampton festival toowoomba travel-australia whatson


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