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What's up with Canberra's pop-up food stall obsession?

Crowds at the National Multicultural Festival
Canberrans are used to crowds at food festivals.

ABC Local: Jim Trail

The Canberra food festival season is upon us.

Over the past few weekends, food and wine has been flowing from pop-up villages around town.

While the delicacies on offer may vary, the one thing you can count on is the hordes of people waiting to try the goods.

But in a town with a popular and acclaimed range of restaurants and cafes, why do Canberrans become so obsessed with pop-up food stalls?

Cara Herceg, Kaylah Jullienne, Elizabeth Townsend

Cara Herceg, Kaylah Jullienne, Elizabeth Townsend
Cara Herceg, Kaylah Jullienne and Elizabeth Townsend love the Night Noodle Markets.

ABC News: Alkira Reinfrank

Matt Turnbull

Matt Turnbull eats a bao.
Matt Turnbull said more work needed to be done to cater to the number of attendees at festivals.

ABC News: Alkira Reinfrank

Julie Qi

Julie Qi sampling many of the food fare at the markets.
Julie Qi sampling the food fare at the markets.

ABC News: Alkira Reinfrank

It's all about the experience

In recent years, the National Multicultural Festival has unofficially kicked off the pop-up food stall season each February.

But the territory's food frenzy is expanding, a new kid on the block, The Commons Street Food Festival, rolled into town in December last year.

The early start might signal a change in the festival scene in Canberra, but foodies are not complaining.

Now in its 21st year, the National Multicultural Festival recorded 280,000 visitors. That's more than three-quarters of Canberra's population.

A brightly coloured dragon puppet on sticks weaves above the heads of a crowd.
Mr Hughes said food added to the cultural experience of festivals.

ABC News: Tegan Osborne

Despite the crowds and the long wait times for food, Canberrans do not seem to be deterred from these events, as seen at this week's Night Noodle Markets.

Marketing expert from the Australian National University Andrew Hughes said food had become intrinsically linked to having the "full experience" at local events.

He said a "fear" of missing the experience meant people were willing to wait in long lines for the fare.

"So if you went and did the experience but did not partake in the food, it's like you did not really have the full experience of being there.

"When we see these pop-up events and these restaurants and food outlets where we can try something different, we love them because they are different. It's a new experience for us."

'It's a food adventure'

Pani Puri street food
Festivals allow Canberrans to taste foods from around the world.

ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe

Mr Hughes said despite the events leaving wallets across Canberra feeling a little lighter, they attracted punters by offering a "food adventure".

"Going to that festival is a food tradition," he said.

"It is the only time of the year you will get the chance to try [so many] foods that are from different parts of the world.

"Your humble food court at your retail outlet in Canberra does not do that same range of food the same way."

Paella being made at National Multicultural Festival
Huge quantities of paella being made at the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra.

ABC News: Ian Cutmore

Being a small capital city made the events even more attractive to its population.

Mr Hughes said in a small city the events were never too far away, and the festivals did not have to compete with the multitude of events that take place in bigger cities.

"It's a lot harder to achieve in a place like Sydney or Melbourne," he said.

"While the scales on those cities may be bigger, here in Canberra the experience is more intimate. And it is a lot more unique and more diverse.

"We do the outdoor venues really well. We do the experience really well."