MANY thousands of people flocked to Horsham over the Easter weekend, despite the variable weather, to enjoy Horsham’s Piazza Italia organised by Horsham District Council - now recognised as the South East’s most popular free public event over the Easter period.
Thanks to glorious sunshine and a truly Mediterranean atmosphere on Good Friday, Horsham enjoyed one of its busiest days ever as thousands thronged the streets, shops and restaurants, coming to admire almost 100 Ferraris and 200 Ducati bikes roar into town in a gleaming display of colour and chrome.
This was the perfect start to a spectacular Easter festival of Italian supercars and motorbikes, authentic Italian foods, live operatic music, chefs demonstrations and street comedy.
Special thanks go to the Sussex Ferrari Owners Club and Ducati Owners Club of Great Britain which through their immense organisational skills and faithful driver participants hope to have raised over £1,000 for Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice.
Whilst the sun had vanished by Saturday, stalwart holiday crowds still flocked to Horsham to enjoy almost 50 stylish minis rally into town for the annual Vines Mini sponsored Italian Job Mini Run. Meantime, those of a fashion conscious persuasion stayed on to enjoy Horsham’s very own Gok Wan-style fashion director as he held the fascinated audience in a comedy fashion show with live music that both educated and entertained!
The 2012 Piazza Italia came to a damp but still spectacular end on Easter Monday as a variety of supercars formed an impressive line up in the Carfax, including the latest Lamborghini Aventador, Maseratis, De Tomasos, and Ferraris as well as the return of the near legendary Pagani Zonda supercar. Boosting Monday’s rally to nearly 100 vehicles were some classic Alfa Romeos, the Fiat Coupes, Fiat 500s and a small number of Lambretta scooters.
The second year of the Waitrose sponsored Italian Wine Tasting Trail attracted many wine lovers into the bars and pubs around Horsham whilst the Italian market drew crowds throughout the festival with their offering of delicious fresh Italian made produce.
Horsham’s bandstand played host to some fantastic operatic voices and appreciative audiences. On Good Friday, Bethan Roles and Krisha Sachania, two students of Collyer’s College surprised many with their stunningly beautiful performances whilst on Easter Monday, Soprano Rebecca Newman brought the entertainments to a climax with a superb set of classical and contemporary favourites sung with crystal clarity.
A new and exciting highlight of this year’s Piazza Italia event was the introduction to Easter Monday’s programme of four accomplished chefs from across the Horsham District competing against each other in ‘The Great Piazza Italia Cook-Off’.
Despite steady rain throughout the day, determined food enthusiasts gathered in front of the cookery theatre as Francesco Raciti from Carmela Restaurant in Horsham, Chris Durnin from The Lamb Inn at Rusper, Steven Edwards from South Lodge Hotel and James Middleton-Burn from The Crown Inn at Dial Post, all performed 20 minute live demonstrations, compered by Hilary Knight.
Highest scoring chef Steven Edwards, who also won Sussex Young Chef of the Year in 2010/11 went through to the final round, cooking prawn and salmon ravioli with a coconut and lemongrass veloute.
The ultimate cook off involved Steven going head to head with ‘Italia in Piazza’ market trader Luigi Baciadonna. Pescara Based Luigi is not a qualified chef but, like many Italians, is incredibly passionate about food. He cooked ‘Linguine con le sarde’ (pasta with sardines), a famous dish which derives from Palermo, with its all important wild fennel flower ingredient.
The afternoon climaxed with the arrival of none other than celebrity chef and Ready Steady Cook legend, Tony Tobin.
Tony, who is well known to viewers of the programme appeared on the show over 300 times since 1992. He entertained the crowds and compered the event as Luigi and Steven battled it out, cooking together at the live cookery theatre.
On tasting both dishes a rather diplomatic Tony declared a tie as both chefs and their respective dishes were equally successful.
Horsham District Council’s Roger Paterson (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), cabinet member for the local economy, Helena Croft (Con, Roffey North, Horsham Town) new Cabinet Member for the Horsham Town Centre and HDC chairman Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) were all on hand to wave off the Ferraris from Carfax on Good Friday and jointly expressed their appreciation of the tremendous impact that all of the partner organisations had made in converting an otherwise very quiet bank holiday weekend into a hugely successful time for the town and its business community.
Garry Mortimer-Cook, HDC’s town centres manager, said: “As event organisers, Horsham District Council and our many partners are delighted with the success of this year’s Piazza Italia.
“Even the cold wind and rain in the latter half of the festival didn’t deter thousands of additional visitors to the town who came to enjoy this unique event that is clearly a favourite in people’s calendars.
“Horsham District Council could not have achieved this success without all the sponsorship and support of local businesses and partner organisations.
“Year after year this event offers businesses a great opportunity to showcase their offer to thousands of new customers, potentially generating valuable additional turnover for many months afterwards.
”It is a key feature of the Horsham Time Well Spent brand which we use to generate town centre visitors beyond its everyday use and put Horsham on the map for people beyond its normal catchment area.”
Based on all of this year’s experience and feedback, plans are already underway on how to make the seventh Piazza Italia event an even more exciting and memorable event for all the family.
The dates for next year are: Friday 29, Saturday 30 March and Monday 1st April 2013. Any businesses wishing to get involved and take advantage of the event next year should contact Garry Mortimer-Cook at Horsham District Council: firstname.lastname@example.org.