New foodie festival Pair’d to replace Gourmet Escape in Margaret River this November

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Ahoy Management's Brianna Delaporte and Erin Molloy.
Camera IconAhoy Management's Brianna Delaporte and Erin Molloy. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret R/RegionalHUB

The State Government has unveiled its long-planned successor to the Gourmet Escape with a festival this November focused entirely on the Margaret River region.

Pair’d Margaret River will rope together the Capes’ best wine and food offerings and teases a music component in a festival format mostly run by WA events managers and now wholly owned by the State Government.

Financial details were not disclosed in Tuesday’s announcement, though it was rumoured Pair’d would be slightly less extravagant than the divisive Gourmet Escape that saw millions paid to an international events company that drew top talent to the region including Heston Blumenthal and Nigella Lawson.

The new contract was for three years, with this year’s festival scheduled for November 14-17, with no plans to extend it to Rottnest or the Swan Valley as happened in the Escape’s dying days.

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Perth music and major events company Mellen Events and Sydney-based We Are Gather will co-ordinate with South West events company Ahoy Management that already runs the Fine Vines and Cabin Fever festivals in Margaret River.

Ahoy’s Erin Molloy told the Times the aspiration was to provide a truly local event that catered for Perth, interstate and international travellers while at the same time honouring the communities already living here and crucial to its character.

That included doing a better job with local suppliers and culinary superstars than the Escape, the Times understands.

“We’re really excited to be working on this WA-owned event developed specifically for the Margaret River region, putting the region and its industry back on the world stage where it belongs,” Ms Molloy said.

“We have so much incredible talent in the region and we’re really looking forward to being a part of the team that brings this new event to life.”

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association chief executive Sharna Kearney hailed the local expertise of event organisers “to develop a new, homegrown wine and food event focused exclusively on the Margaret River region”.

Ms Kearney also expressed gratitude to the Government and Tourism WA’s willingness to take on feedback from the region.

She believed Pair’d would “provide an authentic and memorable connection to our region for visitors, and deliver strong returns for our industry and community”.

The Escape came unstuck during the pandemic and then tourism minister Roger Cook saw the chance to sideline the costly international organisers, dropping the event name the company owned in favour of months of back room talks with key stakeholders including the MRBTA.

Scant details about Pair’d were available, but the Times understands the bulk of the festival would be ticketed events at wineries and other venues, with businesses encouraged to opt in.

Pair’d also includes a music component, though this was likely to be integrated through culinary events rather than standalone concerts, the Times understands.

Tourism Minister Rita Saffioti said the Government wanted to harness the “massive drawcard” of the region.

“We cannot think of a better way to showcase our world-class regional assets than through a vibrant festival like this,” she said.

“With regular flights from Melbourne and Sydney connecting seamlessly to the east coast, it’s never been easier for travellers to visit the South West, and we expect to see thousands of out-of-State visitors enjoy the event in the years to come.”

Regional Development Minister Don Punch said the festival would be a boost to South West industries as well as an invaluable promotion for the region.

“This event will create vibrancy in the South West and generate flow-on benefits to the local community from the increased visitor spend, which will boost a broad range of local businesses, from farms to wineries,” he said.

Ms Molloy said the program was in development now and encouraged all operators to get involved and pitch their concepts directly.

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