Visitor numbers at West Dean Gardens' 20th Anniversary Chilli Fiesta broke all previous records. The sun shone all weekend and a bumper 25,000 thousand people flocked to the award-winning Gardens to enjoy the exciting programme of live music and entertainment, shop at the 180 stalls offering chilli food, products and gifts, and pick up tips from the experts on how to grow and cook with chillies at home. Many people came to camp with family and friends for the weekend in the spectacular grounds of the estate in the heart of the South Downs National Park.
"Ever since our dynamic gardening duo, Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, were inspired to start growing chillies in the early 1990's, these fiery plants have been a permanent feature in our Victorian glasshouses", says Alex Barron, Chief Executive. "Chilli Fiesta has gone from strength to strength since it began in 1995 and it was fantastic to welcome so many people to Chilli Fiesta for this special 20th anniversary year, whether for the first time or as regular West Dean festival-goers."
Brendan Cole of BBC's popular Strictly Come Dancing gave a salsa Masterclass, with professional dancers Patrick Helm and Crystal Main.
Cooking demonstrations over the weekend proved highly popular. Levi Roots, who appeared on Dragon's Den in 2007 and secured investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce joined cook Rosemary Moon and made his famous Home Style Jerk Chicken Wings and Hot and Fruity Caribbean Coleslaw. Further guests in the Cookery Theatre included Andy Lynes, food, drink and travel writer and author of How to be a Chilli Head and Malcolm Riley, The African Chef who prepared Meatballs with Baobab Chilli Jam and Courgetti with a rich Chakalaka Sauce. Rosemary delighted guests with Vanilla & Green Crab Pasta and Lime & Chilli Strawberries as well as lots of top tips, and delicious chilli delights to sample.
Levi Roots also appeared on stage on Sunday with his 14-piece band. The exciting late-night LIVE entertainment offered an eclectic programme which featured Groupo Lokito, The Fontanas, charismatic singer and musician, Jesus Cutino and his band Son de Cuba and Brazilian/Latin group Sambossa. Some of the acts debuting at this year's event were Tom & Ash, Adriana, Quinto, Lokandes, The Voodoo Love Orchestra, the famous Gypsy King Tribute Band, Bamboleo, Elisangela, and local bands Ed Goodale and Steel Strum. The Choroes rounded off a lively weekend on stage.
Chilli plants are always the stars of the show, however, and there were talks and tours throughout the weekend around the Victorian glasshouses in the Walled Garden where Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor, grows 250 varieties of chilli. Guest gardening experts from Sea Spring Seeds, Hot Headz and Simpson Seeds gave talks in the Gardening Theatre throughout the weekend, and recalled their first Chilli Fiesta in 1995.
West Dean's Chilli Fiesta is a family friendly festival. Family fun included the popular Vintage Steam Fun Fair, Face Painting, Punch and Judy shows, Rock School Workshops and NEW for this year The Great Chilli Throwing contest for younger festival-goers, and older ones too. Antonio the Tambourine Juggler entertained children and adults alike on the main stage.
Apple Affair (3 and 4 October 10am to 5pm) will feature apple displays of over 100 varieties, Orchard & Estate Tours, Floral workshops, Cookery Demonstrations, Children's activities, live music and shopping stalls. Early Bird Prices from £8.25 Adult / Standard Adult £9 / Child £1.
Join a cauldron of Halloween Activities this Half Term (26 - 31 October 10.30am to 4.30pm). Follow the Halloween Trail through the gardens, listen to scary story telling and have your face painted… and more. See web site for prices.
To find out more visit www.westdeangardens.org.uk
Notes to editors