12th Annual Food & Drink Fest moves back to FirstOntario Centre

Food & Drink Fest, Ontario’s second largest indoor food and drink festival will be back in familiar digs April 7-9, 2017. “Food & Drink Fest has moved around a number of times in its twelve year history” commented festival founder and president Jay Higgins of Beau Monde Productions. “The past two years were tight at Hamilton Convention Centre so we needed to get back into a larger facility in order to accommodate the high demand from local restaurants, wineries, craft breweries, gourmet food purveyors and the thousands of dedicated fans who attend each year”.

Food and Drink Fest started out at the Hamilton Convention Centre back in 2005 and has grown steadily in popularity each year. It was the brainchild of a local entrepreneur and dedicated promoter of all things Hamilton Jay Higgins. Higgins was born in Hamilton to parents that were lovers of music, the arts, gourmet food and drink and that certainly rubbed off on him. Along with his work in the community and his business interests, twelve years ago Higgins wanted to do something more to help further raise Hamilton’s profile and champion what he saw as a ground swell of new businesses, artists, restaurants and development happening around the city. “The first few years of Food & Drink Fest were really hard both emotionally and financially. We lost money and probably aged a few extra years”, Higgins laughs. “Through sheer determination, hard work and a little luck with the downtown revitalization kicking in we started to see the light”.

The show really pick up steam by year four. But, due to a scheduling challenge back in 2009 Higgins faced a major decision. The Convention Centre had accidentally double booked a large international convention on the same week as Food & Drink Fest. Higgins didn’t want to see the city lose such a large convention but also could not move his dates. At this point Food & Drink Fest was bursting at the seams in the Convention Centre but was not yet prepared to move to a much larger facility. After a number of meetings and compromises, the City offered Higgins a two year contract comparable to that of the Convention Centre contract to move the show to Copps Coliseum because of their oversight. “It was really scary to think about how in the world we were going to be able to more than double our exhibitor base and attendance in one year” Higgins recalls. “It took a lot of effort and many long days and nights but we were able to more than doubled in size and attendance in those two years at Copps”.

Than just as the two year deal with Copps expired, the opportunity came to move to a newly converted warehouse on Longwood and Aberdeen in West Hamilton called The Careport Centre. “Careport was rough and rugged, but was a great backdrop to the Hamilton story and played well against Hamilton’s newly developing post industrial re-gentrification”, recollects Higgins. However, just after the 2014 show and just as the Careport Centre was starting to get a facelift and resembled an actual convention facility, McMaster Innovation Park which owned the building made the announcement that the facility would be turned into a research centre and would no longer host consumer shows or events. “Food & Drink was suddenly homeless. We didn’t want to move the show out of the city centre or do the unthinkable and fold it up after so much hard work and dedication. Copps now called FirstOntario Centre was not available in 2015 or 2016 so the decision was made to return to the Hamilton Convention Centre”, comments Higgins. At this point the show had outgrown the Convention Centre and unfortunately had to downsize booth space and capacity. “It was really difficult to have to turn away so many exhibitors and consumers, especially with the expanded growth that was occurring in the restaurant scene accompanied with Hamilton’s new found popularity” says Higgins.

But they forged on and luckly Higgins and his small team of three were finally able to secure dates at FirstOntario Centre for 2017 through to 2020. In doing so, they will again be able to host over 120 exhibitors and 10,000 attendees. “It’s so exciting to see what is happening in Hamilton and to be apart of what makes Hamilton a great play to live, work and play. There is so much that goes into making a city livable and attractive. Great restaurants, wineries, craft breweries, live entertainment and the arts most certainly are key components. That is probably why Food & Drink Fest has not only survived but grown in popularity each year. It is an event that brings all those components together in a fun, informative, entertaining and community oriented atmosphere. We’ve heard some great quotes about the show over the years such as ‘it’s the biggest house party of the year’, ‘I met my future husband at the show’, ‘we plan our family reunion around going to the show each year’ and my personal favourite ‘Wow Hamilton really has it going on’”, Higgins recollects.

So gather your family, friends, neighbours and co-workers and head downtown to get a taste of Hamilton and surrounding regions at the city’s largest three day house party.

Also New This Year:

  • Those of you with kids who in the past were not allowed entrance with your youngsters can now rejoice. Food & Drink Fest has opened up a special kid friendly zone at the show on the Sunday. Check out the details here. Rest assured that Friday and Saturday are still 19+ but as mentioned Sunday will have a family friendly zone and kids 12 and under are free.
  • Triple the floorspace over the 2015 and 2016 shows and more than double the amount of exhibitors
  • Charity Coat Check. Food & Drink Fest has partnered up with Food 4 Kids. Food 4 Kids will host the coat check and all proceeds from the coat check will go to charity.

12th Annual Food & Drink Fest… the Festival with Taste!
April 7-9, 2017
FirstOntario Centre
101 York Blvd, Hamilton

Friday April 7, 2017 – 4pm to 10pm (19+ only)
Saturday April 8, 2017 – 12 noon to 10pm (19+ only)
Sunday April 9, 2017 – 12 noon to 5pm (Family Day kids 12 and under FREE)

General Admission is $15 at Door and Online

There are Five Options When Buying Tickets Online. All Online Tickets are $15 plus a $.30 handling fee:

Friday (4pm-10pm) – Valid Friday April 7th from 4pm-10pm (HST included) – Must be 19 years of age or older – no children or infants

Saturday Afternoon (12pm-5pm) – Valid Saturday April 8th, when you arrive between 12noon-5pm (HST included) – Must be 19 years of age or older – no children or infants

Saturday Night (5pm-10pm) – Valid Saturday April 8th when you arrive between 5pm-10pm (HST included) – Must be 19 years of age or older – no children or infants

Sunday (12pm-5pm) – Valid Sunday April 9th from 12noon-5pm (HST included) – Sunday is Family day all ages welcomed. 12 and under free Sunday only. Please be sure to register kids under 12 with a FREE ticket

Sunday Kids Under 12 FREE – Valid Sunday April 9th from 12noon-5pm – Sunday is Family day all ages welcomed – 12 and under free Sunday only. Kids under 12 years need a FREE ticket and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian

For Group Sales for 10 or more please call 905-524-3689

IMPORTANT: Priority entrance is given to those that have pre-bought tickets on-line. Saturday night tickets (between 5pm – 10pm) are in high demand, so be sure to purchase yours in advance

Food and Drink Sample Tickets are available on-site for purchase

20 Tickets for $20 (samples range between 1 – 6 tickets)

Must be 19 years of age or older on Friday & Saturday – no children or infants. Sunday is Family day all ages welcomed. 12 and under free Sunday only.

Cash only

ATM machines available

Visit www.FoodandDrinkFest.com for full details

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