The rising profile of gastronomy fairs

The rising profile of local fairs as vehicles for developing cultural identity and generating economic leverage is clear everywhere and this is also the case in Catalonia. According to the latest newsletter for Catalan Fairs “ During 2014, a total of 449 trade fairs are planned in Catalonia. Of these, just 41 are international / or state in nature and the remaining 408 are Catalan regional, interregional, county and/or local level.”

Within this panorama of increasing eventfulness, gastronomy fairs play an important role. In the last two weekends, IGCAT has attended no less than 3 locally organised gastronomy fairs (within a 5km radius of our offices!). These fairs both celebrate local production and support small artisan food businesses.

IGCATs own research has discovered that many local fairs are largely organised for a local audience and thus may have less economic benefits than if placed within a longer-term strategy for the promotion and development of the locality. However, driving tourist/visitors to fairs is not the only aim of these events, and excessive commercialisation can lead to negative experiences for local communities.

Sant Pol de Mar is a small town with just 4,500 inhabitants and yet it is fast positioning itself as a key gastronomy node within the already vibrant Catalan gastronomy offer.

The 3rd Craft Cheese Fair of the Maresme, organised in Sant Pol de Mar brought together 16 Catalan cheese producers on 26 and 27 April and included talks, tastings, workshops and stalls selling local products. Interestingly, this was a bottom-up initiative, organized by the local cultural association “Penya Xíndries” with support from the town council of Sant Pol de Mar and with the collaboration of the Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputació de Barcelona).  This event focussed on the local visitor (not on pulling in large numbers of tourists).

The following week it was back to gastronomy again for the small town with the annual Strawberry Fair. Again, this was a very local offer.  So  what makes Sant Pol stand apart from other towns with gastronomy fairs?  We would argue that it is the longer-term strategy to place Sant Pol de Mar on the gastronomy stage and contribute to reaffirming Catalonia’s status as a gastronomic reference on the international gastronomy stage.

Sant Pol de Mar hosts a 3 Michelin Star restaurant (Sant Pau headed by Carme Ruscalleda) and the Escuela Universitaria de Hosteleria y Tourismo (EuHT), and now it also hosts the IGCAT offices.   Accidental?  We think not.  This is the work of visionary people within the town, arguably the Director of EUHT and the energetic Mayoress of Sant Pol de Mar.  Both see gastronomy and culture as a way to raise the status of Sant Pol de Mar and consolidate its status as a gastronomy landmark in Catalonia.