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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Do you need to be a ‘foodie’ to enjoy Sample?

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Is the Sample Food Festival just for ‘foodies’? I went along to find out.

The first thing I noticed was the sea of tents and people in among the beautiful setting of the Bangalow Showgrounds. Though Sample is about small serves of food (so you can enjoy a few over your visit), it’s certainly not a small festival. Amazingly, despite a field of 120 tents and more than 17,000 visitors, it didn’t feel crowded and only some stalls had long queues.

The variety of food was incredible. One person in your group keen on pulled pork, another desperate for a curry, a third open only to raw food and a fourth simply wanting an icecream? You’d have all ended up happy.

Cooking-based entertainment included the My Mayor Rules cook-off. Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson  teamed up with Sean Connolly (executive chef at Byron’s Balcony). They ‘won’ the wooden spoon against ‘cross-border’ rivals Lismore, despite Simon’s preparations having included the Rocky soundtrack and a rousing back massage from Sean.

Non-food entertainment came courtesy of great acoustic musicians. There was also a range of entertainment that was ostensibly for kids – though I saw several adults fearfully holding a python courtesy of Macadamia Castle and gazing at the roving stilt-walkers thanks to Circus Arts. A row of non-food stalls provided an outlet for anyone needing a break from food.

Fiercer than the friendly rivalry between the mayors was the Golden Fork competition – for the best $5 and $10 tasting plates. On hearing that the $10 prize has gone to StockPot’s (based at the Bangalow Bowlo) southern fried chicken, I rued having walked past earlier in the day. I was in more luck with the $5 plate, going to Byron’s Luscious Food’s Saneeah Pide.

If I were to select the most visible dish of the day, it would be Bangalow’s Town Café Restaurant’s Choc Davidson Plum Macca Mess – those wandering with their carefully balanced ‘mess’ drew much attention. 

Where there’s food, there needs to be drink. Well-known Stone & Wood featured alongside other local drink producers, including the Organic Drink Company, with lemon, lime and bitters on tap, and Wild Cider, who have canned a not-too-sweet finger-lime- and-apple fizz.

If you were in need of something even more fulfilling than food, Ilias the Greek was roving around, offering free hugs. I ‘bought’ two!

So, is Sample just for foodies? My conclusion is no. It is mainly about the food but the variety available, as well as the other elements in beautiful surrounds, make it a great day out for everyone. And, with the entry fee only $5, you can easily head along next year to draw your own conclusion.

Golden Fork winner – Zohar from Luscious Foods


At the ‘Forage then a Feast’ lunch on the Friday before Sample, chefs Katrina Kanetani (of Town Restaurant, Bangalow, with pan), Monique Guterres (Seaweed Cuisine) and Bret Cameron (Harvest, Newrybar) plating up braised brisket with feral coffee-leaf vinegar, kohlrabi, Davidson plum and sow thistle.

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