THIS year’s seafood festival in Weymouth was the biggest ever, organisers have said.

They confirmed the event on July-12-13 saw the largest crowd in its seven year history – an estimated 60,000 people flocked to the resort.

The Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival was blessed with glorious weather and stallholders provided a mouth-watering selection of tasty fish dishes for the many thousands of visitors.

This year was the seventh seafood festival and the fifth with Pommery Champagne’s support as main sponsor.

In recognition of the company’s support and agreement to sponsor the event for the next four years, the Pommery name was added to the Dorset Seafood Festival’s title.

Chairman and Co-director of Dorset Seafood Festival Ltd Roger Dalton said: “The event goes from strength to strength and has begun to attract real organic growth.

“This year’s level of publicity was on a scale not seen before.

“The economic value of the event to Weymouth is huge and far outweighs one out-of-season weekend; it has a knock on effect, bringing visitors back to check out Weymouth during those quieter times of the year.”

This year the star of the show was the humble whelk, thousands of which were served up by chef Taher Jibet of the Dining Room restaurant.

In 2013 Weymouth was the third largest whelk port in England and Wales. The popularity of the whelk stand, which was supported by TABASCO®, has guaranteed the whelk a place at future Festivals. Festival PR Manager, Anna Wallis said: “In addition to the local whelk making a comeback, it’s good news that around seventy-three businesses took stands at the festival, with more than two thirds of them being Dorset based and the majority of the others coming from the south west; it was good to see such a high level of local participation.”

The festival was also supported by leading sponsors ARA Wines, Weird Fish, Piddle Brewery, Seafish and Lloyds Bank.

The benefiting charity, The Fishermen’s Mission, had two stands at the event and over the weekend generated thousands of pounds through the sale of cook books, raffle tickets and fridge magnets, with help from the stall collection boxes, Passionate About Fish demos and face painters.

The final total will be announced once all contributions have been assessed.

Festival Co-director Brian Cooper said: ”A huge vote of thanks must go to our team members and, of course, the Weymouth Community Volunteers, all of whom worked so hard over the weekend.”

It was supported by other category and media sponsors including the Dorset Echo.

Plans for next year’s event have already started and provisional dates announced as July 11 and 12.