HAMPSHIRE Fare has been awarded gold for Tourism Event of the Year at this year’s Beautiful South Awards for Excellence.

The group took first place for the Hampshire Food Festival which began as a weekend event in Winchester to promote local produce.

It has developed into a county-wide, month-long celebration which saw 76 different events hosted by over 60 businesses and organisations this year.

Hampshire Fare commercial manager, Tracy Nash, and chairman, Mike Wright, received the award at a special presentation event which recognised their contribution to the tourism industry.

Tracy Nash said: “We were genuinely surprised to win the Gold Award for Excellence as we felt that the other entries in this category were so strong, but we were also delighted to receive this accolade as recognition of the value of the Hampshire Food Festival to the county’s cultural life and to the local and rural economy.

“I know the Hampshire Food Festival is of huge importance to the county’s food and drink community, and we would like to thank the efforts of all those Hampshire Fare members and, indeed, many non-members, who contribute to the event.”

Mike Wright added: “The Hampshire Food Festival goes from strength to strength. Next year will be our 15th anniversary of the festival and we promise it will be even more spectacular and special than ever.”

Peter Colling, managing director for Tourism South East, said: “This year the overall standard of entries was higher than ever making it extremely tough for the judges. The winners truly are the best of the best and a match for any in the country. We are now looking forward to our winners taking the spoils at Visit England’s National Tourism Excellence Awards.”