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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Chilli pepper fans make merry at Cumbrian festival

South American spice brought a ray of sunshine to a corner of the Cumbrian countryside as chilli-lovers descended in their droves.

Chilli fest photo
David Mack, left, and Darren Cartmell

The Lakes Chilli Fest – which took place at Dalemain near Penrith for the first time on Saturday and Sunday – proved a big hit for food and drink fans, despite some torrential downpours.

What the weather lacked in heat, the food more than made up for, with some of the spiciest products on the market making an appearance.

With a large tent housing the live music stage, there was always somewhere to seek refuge when the rain hit. Chilli pepper fans of all ages enjoyed a dance to the Latino-inspired soundtrack – some even dancing outside as the rain lashed down.

Armed with a warming tray of chilli and a South American-inspired cocktail, or mocktail, the crowd joined in as the band sang Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot.

Among those enjoying the atmosphere were neighbours Julie Bailey and Marilyn Hummerstom, and husbands Phil and Dave. The women, who live in Armathwaite, went for a day out to celebrate their shared birthday on Saturday.

Julie said: “It’s a brilliant day out. We’ve really enjoyed the music. The atmosphere is fantastic. Who cares about the rain? It’s so much fun.”

Friends David Mack, nicknamed D’mack, and Darren ‘Daz’ Cartmell, travelled from Keswick on Saturday and got into the spirit by dressing up in Mexican outfits, complete with sombreros.

David said: “When we heard about it we just decided to come down for the crack. We got here first thing and have had a great day. Some of the food is amazing. Really spicy but also really tasty. The drink is good too.”

When the rain eased off, spectators were back out to sample the many chilli delights, some of them literally taking their breath away. Product names – including the Beast, Witches Brew, Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper, 10-minute Burn and the Chicken Wrap from Hell – gave an indication of the type of heat consumers could expect.

The most hardcore chilli fans then went head-to-head in the chilli-off contest.

Visitors could also buy all kinds of chilli products including jam, sauce and oil, fresh chillis of all varieties – and heat levels – and even chilli plants.

Among the Cumbrian traders were Karen and Helen Kaye, of The Chilli Pepper Company. They said the demand for chilli products is much higher than most people expect and the festival was a great way to spread the word.

There were also lots of milder products, Caribbean-inspired dishes, Spanish tapas and tasty desserts. In addition, the festival featured family-friendly stands, a bouncy castle and teapot ride for younger visitors.

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