Roots Rants Roars - My Food Hike
“We invited participants to create personalized experiences; something they could do on their own, with family or close friends,” said Chris Sheppard, Roots, Rants and Roars event manager. “The result was an addition to the festival that was not only COVID-proof but checked all the boxes for what we envisioned for an expansion.”
By it’s very definition, a food festival brings hoards of people together, often in intimate settings, to celebrate, to share and to eat. Roots, Rants and Roars (RRR) is a two-day food festival based in Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) – the root cellar capital of the world. Founded in 2009 by Tourism Elliston, a non-profit organization to promote tourism and boost economic development on the Bonavista Peninsula, it has grown to become one of Canada’s top culinary festivals.
Fastforward to 2020, when COVID-19 dramatically transformed our world and large gatherings of people were banned. What could RRR do? Well, they took the same creativity and vision that helped create the festival and put it to good use. They narrowed in on what customers enjoyed, what they were safely able to do, and what they would feel comfortable doing in a COVID world—keeping the heart of their festival top of mind.
Chris Sheppard, RRR event manager, says they used this time to look for new opportunities. “We always knew we wanted to expand the festival and create a more regional event. COVID-19 really made us think outside the box.”
The Food Hike has been a highlight of the festival since day one – participants hike along the rugged coastline of Elliston, sampling food from world-famous chefs while enjoying a drink from a local brewery or distillery, and listening to local musicians located at different stations along the trail. In 2020, My Food Hike was born. “We invited participants to create personalized experiences; something they could do on their own, with family or close friends,” said Sheppard. “The result was an addition to the festival that was not only COVID-proof but checked all the boxes for what we envisioned for an expansion.”
Participants build their own hike using rootsrantsandroars.ca for information on local trails and 16 local restaurants that offer delicious picnics for curbside, or trailside, pickup. Each picnic comes in an RRR-branded insulated backpack that you get to call your own. There’s more! No event in NL would be complete without local music, so participants can listen to My Food Hike playlists on Spotify. Hikers can dance a jig and eat gourmet food with breath-taking coastal views—just like the traditional RRR festival.
After having a successful first run of the My Food Hike in September 2020, RRR decided to introduce a My Food Hike Winter Picnic. This new COVID adaptation is so innovative that it will continue generating additional revenue for RRR even after the pandemic ceases.
RRR’s My Food Hike—occurring again in September 2021—is just one example of how NL businesses are getting creative in the face of COVID. “Coming up with ideas for business expansion is only one part of building a successful venture,” says Chris Sheppard. “With ACOA’s support, we were able to diversify our products during the pandemic and make more economic opportunities for the future.”
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