Festival force eyes next year already
She’s got the ‘‘coolest job ever’’.
From a light, airy office in central Wellington, Sarah Meikle and her team run Wellington’s biggest food festival, Wellington On A Plate (WOAP).
With the festival hitting its halfway point, her days are pretty full-on. When most people are clocking off work, you can find Meikle getting ready to attend one of the dozens of events on during the festival.
‘‘If you want to be in events, you can’t be a nine to five person,’’ she said.
Meikle has been with WOAP since it started in 2009 as a way to showcase Wellington’s culinary scene and get people out in the winter months.
In the first year, the festival was pulled together in six weeks, with around 30 restaurants taking part.
This year it has a total of 121 restaurants, around 140 events, more than 100 burgers and 40 cocktails, all spread out over 17 days in the middle of a gloomy August.
‘‘One of the key drivers behind the festival is getting Wellington products on the menu,’’ she said.
Whether it’s olives from Greytown or bacon from the Hutt Valley, Meikle is determined to show off the best food Wellington has to offer.
She has watched the event grow over the last eight years as her team also took over running Beervana, a staple in Wellington’s craft beer calendar.
But while WOAP has grown, Meikle’s team has remained rela- tively small.
She usually works with three other people in their offices and to pull off a festival on the scale of WOAP, they form a ‘‘coalition of the willing’’.
They work with public relations companies, logistics companies and Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency and Meikle said a lot of their time was spent managing relationships.
A small team also meant it was ‘‘pretty easy to turn the ship’’ when problems came up.
Meikle pointed to their Dine Wellington event as an example. Previously, restaurants offered two courses in a set lunch menu but feedback after last year’s festival showed one course would work better.
It’s that sort of thing that keeps the event evolving, Meikle said.
‘‘I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about next year already,’’ she said.
She said planning sometimes extended two or three years out.