THE partnership behind a burgeoning Dales festival will share its success with communities in the area.

The first Dales Food and Drink Festival was held in Leyburn last year, attracting crowds from across the region.

But the success of the debut event was dwarfed by the three-day programme this year when about 18,000 people made the pilgrimage to Leyburn over the May Day Bank Holiday, including celebrities and film crews.

The town council is already in talks with the organisers about a further event in 2004, although there is concern that the community could be overwhelmed by even larger crowds.

The hunt is now on for alternative venues in Leyburn.

Festival organisers, the Leyburn and Mid-Wensleydale Partnership, confirmed it is launching its own Community Fund to share some of its success with local people. At least £15,000 has been set aside for community projects and local groups and organisations have been invited to apply for grants of up to £5,000.

Spokesman David Berry said: "We hope, by helping local organisations obtain other public funding to put alongside our contributions, community projects with a total cost of between £30,000 and £45,000 will be generated this year.

"Profits from the 2004 festival will also be used to help local community projects in the following year."

Applications must be from non-profit making, properly constituted organisations, including town and parish councils, which are willing to come up with a quarter of the project costs themselves.

Applicants must be based in mid-Wensleydale. For more information call (01969) 624970. The closing date is Sunday, November 30.