SPAR Karoo Food Festival

The SPAR Karoo Food Festival proved one to savour as thousands of visitors from around the country descended on Cradock’s annual celebration of culinary flair and flavour at the weekend.

Cooks, braai masters, potjie purveyors and dozens of stallholders came together to cater to those wanting to sample the unique tastes of the region.

With live music and other entertainment thrown into the mix, the organisers had all the ingredients for a festival that dished up food and family fun for the better part of four days.

“I think the relief after Covid was huge. Our numbers doubled and, in some cases, tripled,” said festival co-organiser Lisa Ker.

“You no longer had to worry about being the event that might be the super spreader. It’s also a big relief knowing that you can do things freely without upsetting people.”

Stunning weather greeted festivalgoers on Thursday and never abated until the community event’s conclusion on Sunday.

Long-time festival stallholders stood side by side with newcomers as 40 showcased their wares at the Karoo Street Party on Friday, while a total of 80 offered a variety of treats over the course of the event.

“It was just a wonderful platform for lots of entrepreneurs,” said Ker.

SPAR Karoo Food Festival

There was plenty for festivalgoers of all ages to buy and sample at the SPAR Karoo Food Festival. Photo: Leon Hugo

Visitors came from far and wide – including neighbouring towns and cities such as Graaff-Reinet, Hofmeyr, Steynsburg, Gqeberha and East London – to soak up the atmosphere and unique flavours.

The inaugural Karoo Potjie Master competition was just the melting pot of creativity the judges had been looking for.

Convenor Tony Jackman was impressed with the fare and gees brewed by the contestants within the allowed time.

“The standard of food was exceptionally high. There was a lot of laughter and everybody walked away with a few prizes.”

Entrants were clearly up for the challenge in the Bravest Potjie category, with two teams serving up afval and a third going completely off course with a chicken and mussel dish, which surprisingly “does work”, according to Jackman.

As the coals faded to ash, self-taught chef Nelson Guyo, of the Black Sheep Restaurant in the host town, was crowed champion.

The foodie extravaganza continued its tradition of giving back to the community with the Cradock Animal Shelter and Amy Bell Charities South Africa among a host of beneficiaries.

The first Amy Bell Charity Cycle at Jenkins Creek was well supported, with funds going to the Amy Bell Centre for Children in Cradock. The facility is one of the global projects named in honour of the late Texas philanthropist.

“There was a whole lot of Amy Bell benefactors,” explained Ker. “We aim to give people in the platteland exposure at the festival and youngsters work experience.

“Learners do entrepreneurship at school, but have no idea how to prepare for a festival or even what happens at one. It was great to give them this opportunity to see what goes on and participate.”

SPAR EC advertising manager Roseann Shadrach was thrilled with the attendance and offerings at the festival.

“It was a feast more than a festival right from the street party on Friday night to the potjie competition on Sunday. There was an experience on offer for every palate.”

Giving back was also front and centre of the SPAR brand and its involvement afforded communities the opportunity to promote their businesses while “paying it forward” to various beneficiaries, she said.

“It’s a proud moment for us to empower local entrepreneurs by giving them a platform from which to earn a living. We have two SPAR stores and a TOPS in the area and therefore it’s important for us to promote entrepreneurship here.”

With the festival attracting visitors from all over the country, it also put a small town like Cradock on the map as a tourism destination, she said.