'Going out on a high' - food festival chairman hands over the reins after this year's successful event

Ruud Jansen Venneboer sitting at a bench on a grassy lawn

Ruud Jansen Venneboer - Credit: Alex Walton

The co-founder of the Ottery Food & Families Festival says he ‘feels he’s done his bit’ as he stands down as chair of the event. 

Ruud Jansen Venneboer has seen the festival grow and develop since it was first held in 2013, and thinks he and the team have now found the recipe for success. 

He said the idea came about at a time when Ottery was beginning to develop into a ‘foodie’ destination. With the opening of the Rusty Pig and Samosa Lady restaurants, there was an appetite to expand the food offering in the town. 

Mr Venneboer told the Herald he honestly could not remember who first had the idea for the festival, but that he had ‘probably nudged a few people’ towards the project. He said: “Then Taste of the West got involved in the first year, and helped us to kick-start the event.” 

Ottery Food & Families Festival

This year's festival saw more than 3,000 visitors - Credit: Marc Astley

The first festival took place in part of the Sainsbury's car park and was a relatively small event, but over the years it spread out to various locations around the town, including the square. Having multiple locations meant visitors to the festival saw more of Ottery, but Mr Venneboer said it became ‘an organisational nightmare’, with increasingly high costs for road closure orders and liability insurance. Before the pandemic, when the team were beginning to plan for last year’s festival, they realised they could no longer hold it across several locations. They spoke to Otter Nurseries, one of the festival’s sponsors, and were offered the use of a field near its premises. 

With last year’s festival called off because of Covid, this year’s was the first in the new venue – and Mr Venneboer said it was a ‘massive success’. While he will no longer be chairing next year’s event, on September 3, 2022, he expects it to be held in the same place – but bigger, with some new features that will be advertised nearer the time. 

He added that he was looking forward to continuing to work with Ottery’s business community, whose generosity has enabled the festival to be a self-funding event with no admission fees.  

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