14 Food Festivals to Inspire Immersive Meetings

If you have the flexibility to plan your meeting around a pre-existing event taking place at your destination, you’re in luck. Nothing inspires attendance and participation like a food festival, and these days so many cities have one, if not several, each year.

Food festivals give cities the opportunity to show off their local flavors and the myriad ethnicities that make up their neighborhoods. Plus the experience of trying something new can leave a long lasting impression on attendees, who are always craving authenticity. Often supplemented with local music and other entertainment, it’s a great way to get to know a city, and to take a well-deserved break from the boardroom to head outside.

Here is a list of some of the best food festivals worldwide, according to CNN travel writer John Malathronas.

1. Wildfoods Festival, Hokitika, New Zealand

For the adventurous palet, there’s the appropriately-named Wildfoods Festival, where you can feast on seagull eggs, mountain oysters and possum cutlets while sipping gorse wine.

2. World Porridge-Making Championships, Carrbridge, Scotland

When your country has a staple food, no matter how unappealing it may sound, you have to own it. That’s exactly what Scotland does with the annual World Porridge-Making Championships. If you’re in the area in late September-early October, stop over to Cairngorms National Park for a hardy, heaping bowl of oat-based porridge.

3. The Onion Market, Bern, Switzerland 

Be a part of the biggest folk festival in Switzerland’s capital on November 28 at the Onion Market. To call this merely a food festival wouldn’t be accurate. Sure, you can partake in the pungent aroma while sipping piping-hot bowls of onion soup, but there are also ceramic pots, jewelry, toys and other market goods, plus garlic, hot mulled wine, and a confetti war.

4. Watercress Festival, Hampshire, England

Yes, that watercress—the aquatic herb used most often in soups and sauces—gets its own grand festival. The third Sunday in May each year, everyone from local farmers to celebrity chefs turn out to whip up and taste dishes with the celebrated herb. A brass band and group of dancers announce the arrival of the Watercress King and Queen, who distribute the first shoots of harvest to visitors.

5. Salon de Chocolate, Quito, Ecuador

You should have no issue encouraging attendees to partake in this indulgent mid-June festival. It attracts 15,000 people each year and offers a chocolate sculpture competition, cooking classes and of course, tasting sessions.

6. Bacon Festival, Sacramento, California

Bacon gelato, bacon salad, bacon ramen, bacon tater tots and a side of craft beer—are you drooling yet? There’s never been a better reason to visit California’s capital in January than this savory affair. Chefs cook their masterpieces right on the street, filling the air with the heavenly scent. On the third night, a Kevin Bacon tribute band takes center stage.

7. Blue Food Festival, Bloody Bay, Tobago

What better way to immerse yourself and your team in an island meeting experience than getting a taste of a customary component like dasheen?

This root plant can be found in dishes all over the island, and it’s rare blue nature makes it a well-recognized ingredient.

The weekend-long festival is in its 18th year and attracts thousands of attendees on the coastal island of Bloody Bay.

8. PoutineFest, Ottawa, Canada

Three days of fries, gravy and cheese curds may need to be followed up by some high-intensity team-building to work it off, but Ottawa would agree, it is worth it. The mid-May event offers everything from traditional poutine to pad Thai poutine, butter chicken poutine, beef jerky, smoked salmon and pulled pork poutine.

9. Castagnades Chestnut Festival, Ardeche, France

Remember when people actually roasted chestnuts on an open fire instead of just singing about it? A visit to Ardeche, France will ensure you have the chance to do just that, and taste 62 varieties of chestnuts.  They’re used in soups, stews, baking, beer and alcoholic liqueur.

10. Dumpling Festival, Hong Kong

Every June (on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month) zongzi dumplings are feasted on as part of a national holiday. Glutinous rice and various fillings can be wrapped in bamboo, lotus or banana leaves. A dragon boat race takes place (and has grown so popular, it has its own festival).

11. National Cherry Festival, Traverse City, Michigan

Fly into the Cherry Capital Airport and rest up at the Cherry Tree Inn before embarking on the week-long cherry celebration in July. Events include pit-spitting competitions, pie-baking contests, a Grand Cherry Parade and the crowning of a Cherry Queen.

12. Pizzafest , Naples, Italy

Does this really need a description to entice you? Pizza in Italy. For one whole week in September, Napoli’s Lungomare Caracciolo area becomes a pizza village with 500,000 visitors who consume more than 100,000 pizzas. It’s home to the World Pizza-Making Championships.

13. Vegetarian Festival, Phuket, Thailand

The longest and perhaps healthiest festival on the list, the nine-day festival in September-October is about more than the food. The celebration is part of a general mind and body detoxification, and locals can be seen march through the streets driving away evil spirits, walking on hot coals, bathing in hot oil or piercing their body parts as they channel protective spirits.

The island of Phuket eats only vegetables for the duration of the celebration, cooked with soybean oil and protein substitutes.

14.Herring Festival, Hvide Sande, Denmark

In April when herring swim in to spawn, fishermen converge and the result is a fishing competition, followed by pickled, fried and ground herring.  Attendees can watch angling demonstrations, attend fishing classes and even partake in filleting workshops.

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