Horowhenua's flagship event will have a change of tack next year as organisers of the Taste Trail take stock of what is a snowballing beast.
Taste Trail revellers nibbled, imbibed, chewed and licked their way around the various sites at the weekend that showcased a smorgasbord of food producers putting the Horowhenua region on the map.
Horowhenua Taste Trail chairman Antony Young said there were 2500 tickets sold this year, an increase of 18 per cent on the previous year. Food tickets sales were up 60 per cent, with almost 70 per cent of those coming from outside the district.
One bus doing the rounds had 22 food writers on board, which would generate massive exposure, not only for the businesses involved in the Taste Trail, but the Horowhenua region as a whole, he said.
"That is a great advertisement for Horowhenua," he said.
The appeal of Taste Trail, now in its fourth year, was that people made their way around the sites at their own leisure, although the addition of more buses this year added to the event as it created less traffic congestion.
A large number of people attending the trail were from out of town, he said.
"We haven't advertised as much as we could and it really is through word of mouth. People want to taste the food and meet producers," he said.
"A real point of difference for Horowhenua is the variety of food producers involved. A region like Hawke's Bay might be known for grapes and apples, where we are so diverse, with great soil and climate.
"The brand has been built now and it stands for hard work, creativity and diversity."
Young said many Horowhenua food producers were supplying restaurants in neighbouring cities likes Palmerston North and Wellington.
Taste buds were first woken with a long table dinner at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō on Friday night, with live music from a three-piece band that included former Fourmyula member Wayne Mason MNZM, known for the 60s smash hit Nature.
The weather gods played their part with brilliant sunshine contributing to a record crowd that visited sites at Ōhau Wines, Lewis Farms, Woodhaven Gardens, Turk's Poultry, Ultimate Egg, Bagrie Farms and Genoese Pesto.
Other businesses top set up stalls at these sites were Ian and Gillian Silver Olive Oil, the Baked Dane, Waikawa Fresh, Soul Sisters Kombucha, Thoroughbred Foods and Ōhau Gourmet Mushrooms.
Turks Poultry had live petting of two-day chicks under a heat lamp that was a hit with youngsters on the trail, while they also had free tastings of their product straight from the hot plate with a huge range flavours, some newly released.
Bagries was also a highlight with farm animals including bulldogs, kittens, calves and other animals on display, along with tractors that children could climb in and pretend to drive, and tractor rides.
Lewis Farms again was a hit and the real-fruit strawberry icecreams were worth the wait, while Woodhaven gave tractor tours of their operation.
Aside from the food, each site provided fun activities and first-class entertainment.
A standout was the variety and taste of product from The Baked Dane, the chicken flavours at Turks, the chance to sample some kombucha and the brilliant entertainment at Woodhaven Gardens.
Meanwhile, Young announced last week he is stepping down after three years at the helm, and said it was time for new blood to help the event evolve and stay fresh, and there would be an announcement of his successor soon.
"It was a three-year appointment. I've put my heart and soul into Taste Trail and it is such a great experience, but it is time for a fresh set of legs to run on to the paddock," he said.
He said there would still be an event next year, but it would likely take a different form, while the Taste Trail proper would resume again in 2021.