Karoo food fest

The community in Cradock – and those further afield – are licking their lips as they anticipate another exciting Karoo Food Festival, supported by SPAR Eastern Cape, at the end of the month.

This annual gathering to celebrate the culinary experience of wholesome Karoo fare was started in 2013 and this year it will take place from April 29 to May 1.

The festival’s core theme is to provide festivalgoers, both local and from out of town, the opportunity to taste the traditional dishes associated with the region and, in particular, the world-renowned Karoo lamb.

But, said co-organiser Lisa Ker, the festival’s concept was wider than just sampling Karoo delicacies.

“This is a platform to attract people to our town and to bring the local community together, which is something a food festival can do,” she said.

Ker, whose family run accommodation establishments in Cradock, is a member of the local voluntary organisation that hosts the festival.

“Obviously, the centrepiece comprises the food stalls, but we have tapped into the broader community to offer other activities.

“For instance, we have linked up with Old Mutual, who are organising a trail and social run, while we also profile local cooks and chefs, who provide demonstrations and talks on their skills.

Karoo food fest

The Cradock community is ready to welcome visitors to the annual Karoo Food Festival, supported by SPAR Eastern Cape, from April 29 to May 1. Photo: Supplied

“There are opportunities to go canoeing or to play golf or tennis, so we use all our local resources to make it a community-focused occasion.”

SPAR EC sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton said it was “wonderful” to be able to move into the country and support their communities away from the cities in initiatives like plastic pollution awareness.

“It is close to our hearts,” he emphasised. “And bringing communities together in a spirit of fun and camaraderie is always special.”

Ker said that it was essential to involve the whole community and therefore the 70 to 80 store holders each employed about four people.

“It’s an opportunity to promote the town and the trendy topic of Karoo food, but also to give members of our community a purpose through the employment opportunities which exist and to give them hope.

“We assist in training these people in the workings of a festival and then we are able to use them at other functions or similar occasions during the year.”

She paid tribute to the support provided by both SPAR EC head office and the retail outlet in Cradock.

“Without them it’s doubtful that we would have been able to sustain this festival,” she added.

“Alan Stapleton (SPAR EC sponsorships and events manager) has such a passion for developing the community, in particularly job creation, and it is really wonderful to have them on board.

“Through their support, we have been able to provide T-shirts for the festival workers, make rubbish bins available and create a system of using recyclable containers which ties in with SPAR’s drive to protect the natural environment.

“We strive to run the festival as professionally as possible and SPAR has really helped us with marketing and ensuring that the stores operate smoothly.”

Ker, who is also involved with the writers’ festival in the town, said they had started out with low expectations but were excited at the growth of the event.

“Literally whatever is authentic and important in the Karoo food-wise will be on offer and it is getting bigger.

“This time we are up to about 80 store holders and previous festivals have brought in R2-million to the town’s economy. This year I’m expecting it to be more.

“People come here because they have very specific ideas of what they want to taste, while we encourage young entrepreneurs to become involved.

“There are opportunities such as the potjiekos competition to display your culinary skills, all of which take place in a safe and gentle environment driven by the local community.”

Find more information on the Karoo Food Festival’s Facebook page.