Our first Chilli festival took place, as planned, on 6th & 7th May. The weather was not ideal, and one of our normal car parks was waterlogged, so we used another field across the road in the park. On the day, that too proved to be softer than expected, but our visitors found harder ground nearby and cheerfully, in most cases, walked the extra distance to the house.
There was an amazing selection of stalls, selling hot sauces and chutneys, curries and chilly-flavoured vodka and chocolate as well as Welsh cheeses, Herefordshire cider and perry and traditional potato chips. We hired an entertainer, who walked about on stilts and juggled around the courtyard: he also did a great job amusing the queue at the main entrance. T here was a trail for children and a DVD showing in our exhibition room describing the building of the house, which started 200 years ago.
We attracted about 4500 visitors over the two days, most of whom went round the house where we had a fire blazing in the Great Hall. It was quite a job to get people to move along at times as they were so glad of the extra warmth. The feedback was good, and the stallholders were happy too, especially as we allowed them to drive right up to their stands and because they were placed right in front of the main entrance.
We plan to hold another Chilli Festival at the same time next year. It was hard work for us as our office ran the event, but it was worth it. I even got a compliment for emptying some rubbish bins!
JH-B 11th May 2012