A RECORD 153,227 people flocked to this year’s Bolton Food and Drink Festival — smashing targets for the number of visitors expected.

The figure is up by more than 18,000 people compared to last year.

From Friday to Monday, Bolton town centre was packed with food fans — visitors attracted by 130 stalls and cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs, including James Martin, John Torode, Gino D’Acampo and Michael Caines.

Keith Davies, director of development and regeneration at Bolton Council, said: “We set ourselves the target of growing the festival over a 10-year period, which is next year, 2015, to 140,000 visitors.

“The fact we have not only beaten it by so much, but achieved it a year early, is testament to the hard work everyone puts into the festival.

“It also just goes to show the potential for these types of events in helping businesses in the town centre.

“We are really pleased and are already starting to plan for the 10th anniversary Bolton Food and Drink Festival.”

A dedicated children’s zone was set up for the first time in Le Mans Crescent. It saw CBeebies star Katy Ashworth entertain hundreds of families across numerous shows.

Traders travelled from all over the UK to set up stalls at the festival, with cuisines ranging from Chinese to Thai, German to Jamaican.

And visitors came from all over the world, including one from British Columbia.

Jean McMillan had only landed in the UK on Saturday to visit her daughter Sandra Hopkins, in Leigh, but their first trip out on Sunday was to Bolton for the festival.

The 82-year-old said: “The festival was very busy and very nice. The food is amazing and we’ve spent a lot of money.”

Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, paid tribute to all the chefs, traders, entertainers, council partners and sponsors who helped to make the festival such a triumph.

He added: “The festival has once again been a massive success. We’ve had some fantastic feedback from festival goers and we’ve pulled international visitors in, as well as from all over the UK.

“When you get celebrity chefs like James Martin saying he doesn’t really know another festival like this, which has grown in this way, then you know you’re doing something right.

“One thing we know for sure that has worked really well this year, which has helped increased visitors, is the new family element to the festival.

"Katy Ashworth, from CBeebie,s has gone down a real treat with young food fans.”