PHOTO: Siobhán McNamara
Savour The Flavour of Donegal Town got off to a spectacular start with a heart-stopping fire show, a long table menu, and a fantastic cookery demonstration.
Events continue over the weekend with children’s activities, food tours, producer stalls, live entertainment, cookery demonstrations, wine guide and much more.
Food businesses throughout the town will have lots of offers and tasty treats on their menus.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD officially opened the festival on Friday evening, with Donegal Person Of The Year Noel Cunningham acting as a very capable and entertaining MC.
Praising the organisers and welcoming everyone to Savour The Flavour, Mr Cunningham said: “This lovely pared back event is a bridge towards a bigger event growing from this wonderful event.”
Committee Chairperson Ernan McGettigan said it was great to be back with this scaled back food festival. He spoke of the difficult decision taken earlier in the year to not go ahead with A Taste of Donegal.
“The decision we made in February was the hardest decision we ever made,” he said.
“Our Committee was split down the middle, and when a committee is split down the middle we decided to err on the side of caution and I think in hindsight we probably made the right decision because every business is under serious pressure.
“But this is the most positive thing we could come up with, to have this free event on the Diamond.”
He thanked the public for supporting the event, and the many sponsors, stall holders, contributors, funding bodies and volunteers who made the event possible.
Mayor of Donegal Town Pauric Kennedy echoed the sentiments of everyone when he said: “It is not as big this year but it is good to be back and make a start.”
He too thanked the sponsors and businesses, and he was full of praise for the local community.
“It’s been a tough two years,” he said.
“Everyone was there for each other, and it's great that hopefully we have come out the other side and I think people are reevaluating the important things in life.
“I think being there for each other is number one and so too is enjoying life, enjoying good food and enjoying the atmosphere of a great country that we have and the great products that we produce.”
Leas Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Micheál Naughton spoke of the challenges faced by the tourism sector over the last two years. He praised the festival committee for their work in getting Savour The Flavour up and running.
“It's about keeping the food product and the product we have here in the county to the forefront”, he said.
“We are here right in the heart of Donegal Town, a town that is known for its hospitality and its food and I think it is very, very important that we keep it out there and keep promoting this county.
“Tourism is a huge employer for our county and we appreciate everyone who comes to our door.”
After reassuring those gathered that he wouldn’t be cooking, Garry Martin from Donegal County Council said: “It's been a long two years since we entered a world that none of us ever thought we would see, where we couldn’t go in to get a bite to eat or go out for a night. Thankfully we are out the far end and it is great to see everybody out and about again with fear, and being able to enjoy themselves.
“I want to commend the committee, and the perseverance of Ernan and Mary and the folks on the committee over the last number of years. There is a huge amount of risk and a huge amount of time that goes into this. This type of stuff doesn’t happen easily.
“A huge congratulations to everyone, it is a great showcase for this part of County Donegal.”
Minister McConalogue added his praise for the committee, council staff, local businesses, those who provided services, the chefs, producers and everyone involved.
He continued: “It has been wonderful over the last number of months to see people being able to enjoy normal life again after what has been the really unprecedented two years and very interrupted two years that we have all had to go through.
“And certainly in terms of the public events being held this year and the different shows and events going on in our towns and villages, that appetite and the turnout that we have seen from people and that sense of joy and release that people have had has been very evident.
“There has been a greater appreciation of the importance and the role of food. Because over that two years as we were in our homes more, we were cooking more, we reconnected as well with ingredients, with how food is produced, and with the joy of food and the beauty of food.
“What we have here in the county has been at the centre of what A Taste of Donegal has represented and showcased over the years and I think as people come here over the weekend there is an even greater appreciation of what that is, what’s involved in putting that together, and the joy of experiencing it.”
Chef Brian McDermott then conducted the first cookery demonstration of the weekend, supported by local chef Zack Gallagher.
Mr McDermott reminded people that good food didn’t have to cost a fortune, and he said keeping costs down would be a big factor in the weekend’s demonstrations.
The celebrity chef who has long been a champion for locally produced food said that not only was buying local a way to support producers, the taste showed through too.
Plates and bowls for the demonstration were made especially by local potter Kevin Callaghan whose wares are available on the Diamond throughout the weekend. He is one of a number of producers with stalls at the festival. Others include oyster producers, craft vinegar, confectionery, and much more.
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