• Cyril McAree

Record Numbers Attend Bord Bia’s Bloom Festival

A record number of almost 120,000 people attended Bord Bia’s Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin over the June bank holiday weekend. Welcoming this year’s strong attendance Tara McCarthy, Chief Executive, Bord Bia commented, “We are proud that our Bloom event has developed into such an inspirational festival of creativity, a place where creators of food and drink, of gardens, craft and art get a platform to tell their story.

Each year, Bloom provides Bord Bia, and our key stakeholders, with an invaluable opportunity to engage with consumers, helping us to build insight, learn and share new ideas while celebrating and showcasing the best of Ireland’s horticulture, food and drink industry. In addition to being a great place to visit, Bloom has a strong track record of delivering sales and new business for our stakeholders, both here onsite and more importantly developing trade relationships for future business. This is a key component of the show, and one that Bord Bia is keen to deliver and build upon.” This year’s event also received a ringing endorsement from Bob Sweet, former Head of Judging for the Royal Horticulture Society in the UK. Mr. Sweet, who has visited the show on many occasions, said “there is no doubt in my mind that this year’s Bloom event is better than Chelsea. It is a world-class showcase and Bord Bia should be very proud of what it has achieved in a relatively short period of time. I recall the first show back in 2007 and it is just incredible to see how the event has evolved.” As the festival draws to a close, Bord Bia has released some of the event facts and figures from the last five days: According to Bord Bia’s exit survey, over 30% of this year’s visitors were first time Bloom visitors Plant sales were up 20% compared to last year

Bloom 2017 attracted many newly established food companies, and craft makers. Almost a third of exhibitors (33) within the Food Village were new to Bloom and a third of the Craft Village retailers were new companies and / or new to Bloom.

More than 10,000 visitors left plants in the Plant Crèche to be cared for while they enjoyed the festival The volunteers working on at the Bloom farmyard were busy over the five day festival, with over 50kg of wool sheared, enough for 50 wool jumpers, and some 20,000 litres of milk produced onsite

Almost 20,000 people availed of Bord Bia’s free Shuttle Bus to and from Bloom Within the Food Village, Jelly Bean Factory gave away 50,000 beans, East Coast Bakehouse sampled over 25,000 biscuits and Wild Irish Seaweed sold 100 kilos of dry seaweed over the weekend

Over 15,000 children used the new ‘Bloom passports’ introduced by Bord Bia for this year’s show, while 30 schools, with over 1,000 children visited the show on Thursday and Friday.

Before the doors opened to the public on Friday, over 250 food buyers attended Bord Bia's business breakfast at Bloom for face to face meetings with the exhibiting food and drink companies. This year’s show featured 22 exquisite show gardens, 13 postcard gardens and 33 nursery displays The judging panel for Bloom 2017 comprised of 14 Irish and international horticultural experts, who awarded more than 100 awards to show garden designers, amateur postcard garden designers; nurseries and floral artists including 28 Gold, 18 Silver Gilt, 21 Silver and 21 Bronze medals.

It will take 14 days to clear the Bloom site (it took 31 days to build Bloom 2017) A total of 4,000 people worked onsite over the 5 days including 200 Bord Bia volunteers. What happens next? Many sections and elements of this year’s show gardens and postcard gardens will be rebuilt at various locations around the country over the coming weeks. “We encourage all of our designers and exhibitors to take a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach during their build and break down at Bloom. We are delighted to see so many of this year’s show gardens or elements of them will be rehoused and rebuilt, this is a great result for all involved” said, Gary Graham, Bord’s Bia Festival Manager. A modified version of the gold medal winning Teagasc garden will be rebuilt at one of the Pieta House locations, while Enable Ireland will rehome two of this year’s winning showgardens. In line with its sustainability ethos, the team behind The Chocolate Factory concept garden will reuse many components for other upcoming projects while some elements of the showgarden will be relocated to their city centre venue. Bloom’s Dementia Friendly garden will be relocated to a TLC Centre Nursing Home, while GOAL and Oxfam Ireland called on local authorities, public spaces and buildings, politicians and public servants from across Ireland to get in touch with them if they wish to re-create the award-winning garden in their own city, town or village. The Dog Friendly garden will be transferred to The Dogs Trust headquarters based in Finglas, Dublin 11 while the windmill from the ‘Fluirse Fingal’ garden will be relocated to a community garden in the Fingal area. Meanwhile, key elements from the ‘Greening the City’ large garden will be rehoused at a number of Dublin City Council sites including Weaver’s Square, the Peace Garden and Red Stables at St. Anne’s Park. Finally, Trocaire kindly donated its showgarden to Maynooth University and Agri Aware’s large garden will be fully rebuilt at Fota Island, Co. Cork with a launch being planned for July 1st. People’s Choice The final day of Bloom also marked the announcement of the People’s Choice Award which was won by the Teagasc ‘Garden of Hope’ in association with Pieta House. The winner of this coveted award is voted for by visitors to the show over the five days. VIPs in Bloom VIP visitors over the weekend included President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Mrs. Sabina Higgins; An Taoiseach Enda Kenny; An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald; China’s new Ambassador to Ireland, Yue Xiaoyong and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed. Many of Ireland’s top chefs, TV stars and celebrities also attended including Marty Morrissey, Marty Whelan, Aine Lawlor, Miriam O’Callaghan, Joe Duffy, Derval O’Rourke, the O’Donovan brothers, singer songwriter Cathy Davey and Roz Purcell to name but a few. Dates for 2018 According to Bord Bia, plans and preparations are already well underway for Bloom 2018, with many showgardens, sponsors and designers already signed up. Bord Bia has also confirmed that “Bloom 2018 will take place from Thursday, May 31st to Monday, June 4th 2018. “We are already working hard talking to consumers, exhibitors, stakeholders and staff to ensure next year’s show will continue to surprise and delight” concluded Tara McCarthy.

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