Devoted chilli fanatics created a real carnival atmosphere at this year’s West Dean Chilli Fiesta, which took place over the August bank holiday weekend.
About 20,000 guests flocked to the West Dean hot-spot to discover the flavour and variety of more than 300 different types of chilli and to browse over 100 diverse stalls selling unusual food, drinks, gifts, art and chili plants.
The extensive programme of entertainment included music from the Chichester music academy and the return of the hugely-popular band Mano De Dio, as well as salsa performances from world-class dance champion Patrick Helm and his partner Kate in ‘Strictly West Dean’.
Becky Carter, from Midhurst, who was aptly dressed as a red chilli, said: “We are having a great day, spicy food, tasty drinks, great music and the occasional hint of blue sky – what more could you ask for!”
Alongside delicious chilli chocolates and extensive selections of jams, pickles, sauces and pastes, were some unusual but refreshing drinks, chilli and orange ginger beer and chilli wine.
Cocktail demonstrations were a definite weekend highlight. Host bar ‘Hire the Barman’ created a unique West Dean chilli cocktail with some super-spicy ingredients, called the ‘Westdeani’.
Dena Sherman, a stall holder from the kettle corn company, said: “We are new to the chilli festival, but we are really enjoying the atmosphere, and people seem to be enjoying our chilli popcorn.
“It’s really nice to see all the other amazing products you wouldn’t normally see in the supermarkets.”
A live cookery demonstration from food writer and West Dean’s resident cook, Rosemary Moon, was exceptionally popular with spice-seekers as her creative dishes were liberally laced with specially-selected chillies.
Harry Pearson, from Guildford, said: “We’ve had some real finds today, we bought some chilli candy floss which was unusually good, and even my three-year-old son enjoyed it!”