AFTER being cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Bolton Food and Drink Festival is back, with council chiefs delighted to see it's return.

Launching on Friday, the four-day event features a huge variety of food stalls, live entertainment and demonstrations from some of the region's top chefs.

Council leaders praised the return of the festival, one of the biggest events held in Greater Manchester.

Mayor of Bolton Cllr Linda Thomas said: “It is my absolute pleasure to welcome everyone here today, it’s great after the past 18 months to be together and celebrate.

“This is the 16th year of the festival and after being forced to go virtual last year, I know everyone is pleased to be here.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying all the fantastic treats on offer and visiting Queens park – the jewel in the crown - where we have a new picnic zone there.

“I’m sure visitors will be back in Bolton, events like this showcase Bolton at its very best and supports the economy.

“We hope everyone can enjoy the next four days safely with family and friends, to eat, drink and be just a little bit merry.”

This year's festival follows the death of Council Leader David Greenhalgh, who died on July 29 aged 53. He was passionate about the festival .

Bolton Council Leader Martyn Cox said: “Well it is a great feeling to be back, we missed it in 2020 the 2019 festival was of course a record breaker, we had 400,000 people here.

“People won’t believe this, but this is biggest event in Greater Manchester, not just over this weekend but over the whole year.

“We’re hoping for similar numbers this time so we’re very excited to have it back.

“But obviously for many of us its tinged with sadness, we lost David not long ago who loved the festival, so that’s sad.

“But for the people of Bolton its an opportunity after 18 very difficult months to go out and have a good time

“I like it all, but I particularly like the music. People see it as a food and drink festival, but there's a musical element to it and there’s 88 acts on as well – good food, drink and family fun.”

Cllr Hilary Fairclough added: “I am delighted that we are all here today, but sadly it is for me and many others a combination of great sadness and excitement.

“Unfortunately, this year my great friend and leader of the council, who absolutely adored this festival is no longer with us.

“David absolutely loved every stall, salami, olives, sausages - he couldn’t wait, particularly homemade pies. He would buy them for the freezer.

“I have many happy memories sitting with him in the Aldi bar and I can assure you we will be raising a glass or two to David Greenhalgh.”