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Kāpiti Food Fair

If you go down to Mazengarb Reserve at the end of November, you’re in for a big surprise.

cherrys food fair Photo credit: Kapiti Food Fair

From humble beginnings

The Kapiti Food Fair now sprawls over the entire Paraparaumu park. And this year there will be more than 2400 vendors, offering everything from seafood and sweets to  local craft beer and artisan honey, even food mixers.     

And where the vendors go, so do the crowds. This year Helene Judge, who runs the annual fair with business partner Jeanine van Kradenburg, is expecting more than the 20,000 who came to sample, sip and have fun last year.

“We’ve been increasing visitor numbers around 35% each year,” says Helene. “So this year, we’ll be hoping for our biggest turnout yet.”   

It’s a far cry from the fair’s humble beginnings in 2008 when Jeanine and a fellow trainee chef staged a food festival on their Whitireia campus which was then near the Lindale Complex.

 

limoncello food fair
Koa Koa Limoncello
Food Fair 9
Gourmet Black Pudding

Buoyed by their success, the following year the pair came to see Helene who was then working in business development for the now defunct Nature Coast Enterprise.

“We started working together and eventually moved the event to the Lindale Carpark.”

By 2016, not only had the fair outgrown that venue and moved to its current home in 2014, but Helene and Jeanine had also formed a formal business partnership to run the event.

They applied for, and received, funding for three years from KCDC’s Major Events Fund, which is allocated on a yearly basis and any event that meets the criteria can apply for it. It was the boost the pair needed to take the fair to the next level.

“We invested in marketing and promotion, in letting people know about the event and, as a result, we’ve seen a massive growth in both visitors and vendors.”

They applied for, and received, funding for three years from KCDC’s Major Events Fund, which is allocated on a yearly basis and any event that meets the criteria can apply for it. It was the boost the pair needed to take the fair to the next level.

“We invested in marketing and promotion, in letting people know about the event and, as a result, we’ve seen a massive growth in both visitors and vendors.”

The fair has also attracted around 12 sponsors, including Air NZ, which has also helped to boost resources and its profile.

Food Fair 7
Food Fair 8
Cardrona Distillery

The result is one of the biggest events on Kapiti’s calendar with vendors from all over New Zealand flocking to secure a space. That includes an artisan distiller from as far south as Cardrona and fried bread and sausages from Waiheke Island, although around 35% of stall holders are local food and beverage producers. 

The fair is divided into four zones – ready to eat, which features a “United Nations” of food trucks and gazebos serving hot and cold offerings, a liquor zone, which includes the popular Tuatara bar, packaged food to take home or for gifts and the non edible section, which includes catering equipment and kitchen gadgets.

And while guests eat and drink their way through the delicious offerings, they’re entertained with live music on two stages, a demonstration kitchen, circus buskers and a kids zone. There’s also a free shuttle bus which loops from the park to Paraparaumu Railway Station throughout the day, making it easier for visitors to ditch the car and take public transport.

the fishing chick v2
The Fishing Chick

A popular feature is the celebrity chef and over the years, the fair has hosted everyone from Nadia Lim to Martin Bosley. This year, however, since Whitireia’s kitchen is no longer available for the usual chef masterclass, they’ve opted for a celebrity guest – Nicky Sinden, aka The Fishing Chick, who’ll be doing everything from demonstrating how to fillet a fish to talking about her TV show, Addicted to Fishing.        

Thanks to another three years funding from KCDC’s Major Events Fund, Helene and Jeanine are looking forward to growing the event further.

“People love good food and to enjoy that food with people they love, which is why they’ve responded so well to the event. Our mantra is fill your life with good friends, good times and good food at the Kapiti Food Fair.”