CaptureFOOD lovers are being invited to feel the burn as one of the North East’s best loved festivals makes a welcome return.

The third annual Distinctly Delicious Darlington – Festival of Food will return to the town centre on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May – with a special challenge for chilli lovers.

Throughout the two-day event, more than 50 stalls at High Row and West Row, will be selling locally produced artisan and speciality food and drink.

And, for the first time ever, organiser BID company Distinct Darlington, is holding a knockout chilli eating contest, at the Pease Monument at 2.30pm on Saturday 14 May.

The contest will be compèred by chilli grower and expert Dan May and organisers are seeking 10 spicy super fans prepared to eat, chew and swallow whole chillies.

The chillies will grow stronger each round, starting with mild Jalapeños and working up to superhot varieties such as the Dorset Naga and the champion will win a case of beer and be crowned Distinctly Delicious Chilli Champion.

The festival’s flagship Locomotion cake parade will also be making a welcome return, recreating the journey of Stephenson’s famous train, through Darlington, with 15 cakes representing carriages.

Now, Distinct Darlington is calling on cake lovers, schools, businesses or community groups to volunteer to decorate the cakes, which will then be paraded through the town on Sunday 15 May, before being cut up and shared among the crowds.

Each group will be given a time slot to decorate their cake over the course of the weekend and taking part is free, with all materials and decorations provided by the organisers.

The festival will also feature demonstrations from chefs from leading North East venues, along with the return of the Distinctly Delicious Market Awards, artisan food tastings and drop-in cooking workshops.

To take part in the chilli eating competition or to decorate a cake, contact Maddie Maughan on 07738 822568 or email maddiemaughan@hotmail.com.