ORANGE — Orange’s inaugural Edible Food Festival had all the trappings of a small carnival, with one notable exception: the smell of fryer grease was nowhere in evidence.
Instead, attendees quenched their thirst with locally produced grape juice from Albemarle County’s Oakencroft Farm and lunched on organic goat kabobs.
If you wanted a funnel cake, you were at the wrong carnival.
The event far outstripped its organizers’ expectations Saturday.
Jeff Curtis, executive director of the Downtown Orange Alliance and the festival’s primary organizer, said the event had drawn in a few hours the crowd he expected to see over the course of the whole day.
“We kind of had a goal of 3,000 people for this year. We’ve probably exceeded that in the first two or three hours of the festival,” he said.
The festival was a joint venture between the Downtown Orange Alliance and Edible Blue Ridge Magazine, a Charlottesville-based publication that focuses on locally produced food. Primary sponsorship came from Subaru.
Edible Blue Ridge’s publisher, Steve Russell, said he hoped the festival would interest more people in local food, and make them more conscious of how food is produced and where it comes from. For those already keyed in to local food, he said, he hoped the event would broaden horizons.
“I’m hoping that people who came here who are already 100 percent devoted to local foods maybe discovered a few new vendors,” he said. “And then people who maybe aren’t as immersed in the local foods movement may have come here and listened to some of the speakers, gone to a couple of the chef demos and learned why it is important.”
For Nelson County varietal vinegar producer Jay Rostow, the festival was an opportunity to build his brand and get people interested in different types of vinegar. Rostow and his wife, Stephanie, make vinegars out of locally sourced wine and beer, including a malt vinegar that starts life as Starr Hill Amber Ale.
“We do a conversion process on [wine and beer]. It’s sort of a secondary fermentation, and we come up with this product that we are pretty proud of,” he said. “We sell a lot of the Starr Hill Malt Vinegar … and we have a sweet white that we call Better Than Balsamic, and that has sold pretty well today.”
The only problem the festival seemed to run into was vendors running out of wares.
Philip Ponton, of Oakencroft, said he underestimated how much of his artisan grape juice to bring.
“Festivals that we have done before, we have like a benchmark so we kind of know how much to bring, but we didn’t have anything to base it on, so consequently we have run out just about,” he said.