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In 2001, the annual AOA Conference and Expo was held in the Hunter Valley of NSW as part of a four day event to showcase the local olive produce. Today, the inaugural Feast of the Olive Festival lives on.

The original event was held on one day at one location, but over the past nine years, this has steadily grown to become a major event on the Hunter Valley calendar. This year, 12 venues will host all things olive related over two big days, from 26-27 September.

Much of the Hunter Valley olivegrowing area overlaps the famous Wine Country area, so the natural synergy of food and wine fits perfectly and as several wineries are also olivegrowers too, the obvious answer is to marry the two together and invite visitors to sample olives, oils, tapenades, and other deli lines all washed down with a glass of wine and often accompanied by some local musicians.

The Feast is also the official tasting of the award winners from the Hunter Extras Virgin Olive Oil & Olive Product Show. Entries are invited for all comers and extra virgin oils, flavoured oils, green, turning and black olives, tapenades and olive oil based soaps are all judged prior to the show with the winners available for tasting at the Hunter Olive Association tent during the Feast.

This year, the importance of olive oil in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease is being highlighted, with a significant contribution for Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, highlighting how olives in general can assist in brain function.

The success of olives in the Hunter has not come as a major surprise to many of the local vignerons and chefs – the area has been famous for well over 100 years for its local wines and produce, olives are just another string to the bow.

What does come as a slight shock is the chap you see shopping at the supermarket – everybody knows him as “the olive guy” – is producing olive oil far superior to what is being sold in that supermarket – and that the girl in the queue at the petrol station produces award winning olives and tapenades: the best table olives at the Sydney Fine Food Show. The Hunter has a host of low-key “local heros” each competing against themselves to raise the bar, to do better.

The Feast of the Olive is held annually on the last weekend of September. Hunter Valley producers show their stuff but producers from other regions are more than welcome to exhibit. This year, there are 12 outlets where visitors and locals will congregate to sample, taste, learn and hopefully take home some delicious local produce.