By Martin Walker
A record number of visitors descended on the sixth annual County Durham Oktoberfest event on Thursday.
Organisers say an estimated 1,500 people poured through the doors of the Xcel Centre on Aycliffe Business Park, Newton Aycliffe, for the hugely popular engineering and manufacturing exhibition.
With 120 exhibitors crammed into the centre’s auditorium and service village, the seven-hour event has been hailed another huge success after attracting around 300 more visitors than last year.
Darren Race, chairman of the South Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Forum and co-founder of County Durham Oktoberfest, said: “We’re estimating about 1,500 visitors, which is bigger than last year when we had about 1,200.
“We’ve had 120 exhibitors, we’ve had some good buyer experiences so I think overall it was really good.”
Race says the tone of the day was set by Ebac managing director Pamela Petty, when she helped to kick off proceedings by talking about how we can still do it in the North East.
“Pamela talked about how if we have a will there’s always a way,” said Race, referring to Ebac’s ambitious plans to bring washing machine manufacturing back to the UK as well as branching out into the production of chest freezers.
“I think that was a great example of how a company is going to bring engineering and manufacturing not only back to the North East, but bring skills, products and appliances back to the area that we once sent overseas, so I was really pleased with how that message was put across.”
The success of the event will be evaluated over the next few days.
Race added: “The whole team will have a wash-up session, when we look at feedback and analyse it, ask exhibitors what worked for them.
“It sometimes takes a bit of time to get a sense of what actual trade has been done on the day, so in a week or two we’ll sart reviewing that and start showcasing those wins and success stories.
“Last year one company had a 40 per cent increase in turnover, which has transformed that business, and hopefully we’ll see more of that.
“I think what we have seen is that there is an air of optimism. People have actually come out – it might have been because of the weather, which was fantastic, so thanks to the lord for that – but it was a great day and I think we’ll get some positive feedback.”
This was the sixth County Durham Oktoberfest event and the third year running to be held at the Xcel Centre in Aycliffe.
Kerina Clark, manager of the Xcel and chair of the Aycliffe Business Park steering group, said: “I think the event itself has really taken on new momentum.
“There’s a real feel-good feeling around business on the park and I think that’s been felt in this event as well.
“We’ve had the best attendance and we’ve also had some really good feedback from the exhibitiors, so if our customers are happy than we’re happy.”