‘Allure’ of rhubarb sees thousands flock to Wakefield’s food festival

Vicky Davies and James Hulme from E Oldroyd and Sons.

Vicky Davies and James Hulme from E Oldroyd and Sons.

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RHUBARB Lovers have been out in force for the first day of Wakefield’s annual celebration of the famous Yorkshire plant.

Celebrity chefs, local restauranteurs and even Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls took to the cooking stage on the Cathedral Precinct as the three-day Food, Drink and Rhubarb Festival got underway today.

The festival is now in its ninth year and celebrates the city’s place at the heart of the rhubarb triangle of Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell.

The city’s links with forced rhubarb, which has joined the hallowed ranks of Europe’s protected foods, with the same status as Champagne and Parma Ham, go back 150 years.

The festival showcases some of the region’s best local produce with cookery demonstrations, market stalls, street food and entertainment.

Friday saw demonstrations from ITV Yorkshire’s Flying Cook star Rachel Green, James Lodge from Wakefield’s Mex Cantina, and Heather Copley from Pontfract farm shop Farmer Copley’s, who was joined onstage by Mr Balls, MP for Morley and Outwood.

Demonstrations at the marquee take place from 10am to 5pm tomorrow, with celebrity chef Brian Turner on stage at 11.30am, 2.15pm and 4pm.

Sunday’s highlights include Great British Bake Off finalist Luis Troyano at 11.30am and 3.30pm, and Cbeebies’ I Can Cook presenter Kat Ashworth leading a kids’ sing-a-long at 2.45pm. Last year’s festival saw more than 125,000 visitors, and this year’s event looks set to be just as popular, with today proving to be the busiest first day in the festival’s history.

Coun Les Shaw Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport said: “The first day of the Food, Drink and Rhubarb festival has been our busiest Friday ever and is a tremendous success. The city centre was buzzing with shoppers and we have already welcomed coach loads of visitors. The allure of Wakefield’s rhubarb is yet again proving rather irresistible.”