AND so it's over for another year.

No, not summer — although that does also seem to have made its departure — I'm talking about the Bolton Food and Drink Festival.

Thousands of people flocked to the town centre to sample to delights on offer.

There were celebrity chef demos, tips from some of the best cooks in the region, stalls galore and more food than you could shake a very big stick at.

I make no apologies for the fact I'm a MASSIVE fan of this foodie extravaganza.

I absolutely adore it from start to finish.

I spent the entire weekend in Bolton town centre, scoffing grub like it was going out of fashion and seeing as much as I possibly could.

And I was certainly not alone, there were more than 153,000 other people joining me.

I have genuinely never seen the town centre as busy as it was.

On Saturday the sun was glorious and I spent a brilliant afternoon with pals, wandering round the stalls, buying all sorts of treats before relaxing in several of the tents — I sampled both beer AND cider — and listening to the fantastic live music.

No-one could deny this year's festival was bigger and better than ever before.

And in my humble opinion the atmosphere was the best it ever has been.

Including a special area for children was a brainwave, not only did it give little ones something to do but also meant mums and dads could rest their weary feet away from the hubbub of the main areas.

Live music and more places to relax was wonderful, it was easy to spend all day having fun and trying delicious and exotic food and drink.

However, despite all the fantastic things going on in the town centre this weekend, there were still some people who knocked it.

Don't get me wrong, I know the town centre still has its problems.

It's always disappointing when shops, like Evans or Alice's chip shop, close down.

And yes, there needs to be more independent retailers in the heart of town.

But I'm from a town that really has died on its backside.

Hardly any shops, and those that exist are terrible — charity shops and pound stores.

My dad often describes it as “a holding pen for the Jeremy Kyle show” because of the delightful people it attracts.

Bolton is FAR from any of these things.

It has an absolutely fantastic market, which is where I do most of my shopping now rather than a soulless supermarket, more and more independent shops are moving in all the time to complement the existing stores — X Records anyone — and there are big plans for the future.

I, for one, can't wait to see the exciting new development in the Market Place, the new offices and Town Hall, not to mention all the other proposals for the future.

So, to those of you who constantly knock the town centre — stop moaning about how rubbish it is, vote with your feet and start shopping here again.

Only then will it start to feel, and look, like the buzzing place it once was.

You only have to look back to last weekend's food festival to realise just how much can be achieved.

Everyone behind this fantastic event — organisers, council, chefs, stallholders, sponsors and most importantly, visitors — should be very proud of themselves.