"THEY call me Taco" Rodriquez and Michelle Hewitt. Jennifer Crawley

Cheers! Did we take your photo at food and wine festival?

A SMALL idea has grown into the large success that the Ballina Food and Wine Festival is today.

Celebrating it's ninth birthday on Sunday, the Rotary organised food and wine expo has grown from 20 exhibitors to more than 75 in 2018.

Traditional venue, the Ballina Jockey Club, was overflowing with happy patrons as the food and wine festival, once again, wowed regulars and newcomers from across the country with the best regional produce the Northern Rivers has to offer.

"Our club wanted to bring something to the town, to do something for the town, to give it a higher profile," Rotarian Colin Lee said.

Surveys handed out to patrons before they enter the site reveal that 50 percent of festival goers come from outside the 2487 postcode. "We get people that come up each year from South Australia, Sydney, Canberra, the Gold Coast and Brisbane,'' Mr Lee said.

All under cover with only small charges for delicious food and wine including prawns that came off the trawler that morning, the festival reflects the efforts of the hard-working Rotarians of Ballina.

Sixty kilos of fresh prawns that came off the trawler on Sunday morning and filleting demonstrations on a couple of giant jewfish kept workers at the Ballina Fishermen's Co-Op stall very busy.

"The prawns coming in this morning was perfect timing really,'' operator Alister Robertson said.

Ballina is traditionally a prawn and fish town, said Mr lee.

"What's really grown is the quality of the exhibitions,'' Mr Lee said. "There is such a variety and we keep it local, that's our philosophy."

"This generates a lot of money for the town with many of the hotels and motels are booked with patrons and exhibitors.''

The Food and Wine Festival has donated more than $240000 to local charities and charitable organisations since its inception.

The 2018 major beneficiary for the 2018 Ballina Food & Wine Festival is the Ballina Shire's Rural Fire Service.

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