Once again wet weather refused to dampen the spirits of the people of March as they celebrated their 16th March Summer Festival Weekend, with a weekend of music and merriment.
Throughout the weekend hundreds of people flocked to West End Park to enjoy the great variety of music; the Gala Parade comprising walkers, Classic Vehicles and floats; the varied stalls and amusements in the Lions Gala and a the numerous activities of the Picnic in the Park.
The weekend began with ‘Rock in the Park’, the start of which was delayed due to problems with the electric supply to the stage which were solved by the arrival of a generator.
Eventually the thumping ‘deathcore’ tones of Dispossession, followed by the old school Kaine, the uniquely funky sound of Stringfinger and finally the heavy ethereal performance by Exist Immortal filled the stage which was beautifully illuminated by new lighting man, Jonathan Darwood of JD Technical.
The rain started to fall as the evening drew to a close and continued through the night and into Saturday. However it didn’t stop thousands of people from lining the streets to watch the parade led by Vivien the Fire Engine (in a tribute to the late Patsy Brewin), followed by the Classic Vehicles and the Gala Princess Lilia-Joy Rust, eight and her attendant Amy-Rose Moore, ten, in a horse-drawn carriage.
Next in line were the March Bears Rugby Bears float along with many local groups.
When the crowds finally arrived in West End Park, the Gala was officially opened by the March Lions President, Ruth Martin, along with Mayor Rob Skoulding, Barry Howlett of the March Branch of the Royal British Legion and Summer Festival Chairman Marcus Phillips.
They were followed by the presentation of the trophies to the winners in the Parade by Colin Bedford: March Brownies/Rainbow (Mallett Trophy for Best in Parade) and the Doddington Hospital Nurses (Skoulding Trophy for Best Group). Bruce Smith then presented trophies for the best vehicle in the Classic Car Parade to Yvonne King for her Austin 7 named Ethel and the best car in the Classic Car Parade to Colin Arnold for his Hillman Minx.
The March Chamber of Commerce Cup for the Best Window Display was then presented by their chairman Debbie Buck to Harrison Murray Estate Agents and Nottingham Building Society. Joint runners-up in the competition were Bizzy Bee Florist and Stardust.
The Fancy Dress competition, also judged by Debbie, along with Michelle Pegg, then took place, with prizes for both winners and runners-up, donated by Boyes and The Toy Box awarded to: Lexi Bradshaw as Princess Jasmine; Riley Woodman as a Pirate; Hollie Andrews as Queen Elizabeth I; Sharon Shepherd as Britannia; Colin Andrews as Henry VIII. Hollie also received the Patsy Brewin Cup for her efforts.
Once the presentations were finished, the huge crowd were delighted by Lisa Dickinson’s Dance Mania which included energetic routines set to many popular songs by over 100 dancers. They were followed by young local popular band Frivolity and the mellow songs of Lee Enstone.
Whilst the dancing took place on the outdoor stage, many people were also wandering around the gala stalls or enjoying the fairground rides. Others spent time viewing the diverse range of classic vehicles and the Rugby Bears demonstration at the far end of the park!
As the afternoon became evening the stall holders and the cars left the park and Pop in the Park began with ska band Scooted n Booted; the unconventional John Preston Tribute Band and the massively popular Whiskey Twist, led by accomplished guitarist Tom Harlock.
The weather remained cloudy as Peterborough based David Bowie tribute performer Aladdinsane took the stage for an electrifying performance of Bowie’s most memorable hits.
Once again on Sunday, the final day of the festival, the sun still barely broke through the clouds yet hundreds for people turned out for the ‘Picnic in the Park’ and for the fun dog show.
A dog show was once a common feature of the Lions Gala, but it disappeared before the March Summer Festival came into existence. This year, its revival proved to be a ‘hit’ and literally hundreds of dogs took part in the show, competing in categories such as ‘Most Appealing Eyes’ and ‘Waggiest Tale.’ Marie Rayner, whose dog was one of the entrants said: “Sam Laws of Doggy Styling Grooming did a marvellous job in organising the show. It was great to see hundreds of happy dogs in the park.”
Whilst the dogs were having fun at the end of the park, near the bandstand, behind the soundline, a number of activities were taking place including the World War Two display by March Museum and the March History Group, face painting and the ever popular colouring competition, the latter organised by Penny Hicks and judged by Keith and Karen Cheale.
Later in the afternoon prizes (donated by Greetings and Boyes), were awarded for the colouring competition to Molly Kirby and Hollie Andrews (Under 8 category); Ruby ? and Joseph Freshwater (8 – 11 year old) and Amber Freshwater and Kamile (12 and over). An additional prize was also presented to Damian ? for special effort.
Sadly the temperature dropped during the afternoon, and those who were watching the stage performances from Chatteris Town Band, MADAOS, Ivan Garford’s Hell Fire Club and Cat in the Mangle, began to feel rather chilly. A number of people went home, some to return with blankets and hot drinks, others to be replaced by those in warm coats ready to enjoy the evening concert.
The sun did try to appear but was not strong enough to push its way through the clouds as evening arrived. By the time the Fenland Youth Swing Band started their set the temperature had risen slightly and a couple of hundred people were more able to enjoy the rousing performance by the 20 young singers and musicians.
Clive Lemmon, Town Clerk and Treasurer for the March Summer Festival said “Considering the weather it was a remarkable weekend, relatively trouble-free and enjoyed by everyone I have spoken to.”
During the evening the Grand Draw with 17 great prizes took place. Winners were as follows: Jayne Manders (A day out in a Narrow Boat for 10 people from Fox Narrowboats); Macy Dear (A Lifesize cardboard cut out of a figure of your choice from 3B Design and Print); Kaenamae Sharman (studio portrait sitting and print from Charles David Photography; Mattie Fuller (10 month gym membership from the Oliver Cromwell Hotel); Nosworthy (£50 Holiday voucher from Holiday with Us); David Wardy (Sunday lunch for 2 at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel); Catherine Pearson (a cycle carrier from UK Towbars Ltd); Andrew of the Burger Van (3 x i gym membership George Campbell Leisure Centre); Stella Snow (£30 saving stamps from Iceland); D White (meal for 2 at the Olde Griffin Hotel); Sharon Shepherd (fish supper for 2 at Stotts Fish Restaurant); Alfie Sharman (carvery for 2 at Cassano’s); Denise McNamee (£25 voucher for Wrights Tools); Roberta Crabb (£20 voucher for Stardust); Kim Wheeler (£20 voucher from The Spicebank); Aimee Cross (2 main meals at The Hippodrome); Mrs S Howlett (a large pizza from Domino’s).
Winners who did not collect their prizes will be contacted during the week.
The March Summer Festival Committee would also like to thank John Whitehead (the MC); the Skull Splitters Motorcycle Club (Security); the stallholders; the parade participants; the numerous volunteers who helped run the event and local businesses who have given help, prizes and sponsorship. They would also like to say that help and ideas are always welcome for future festivals and if you would like to do so, please get in touch via Clive Lemmon at the Town Hall on March 653709.
The March Summer Festival is non-profit making and is made possible by grants from March Town Council, Fenland District Council and PRS for Music along with advertising revenue, sponsorship and donations made during the weekend.
A list of supporters will soon be up on the website www.marchsummerfestival.co.uk and with links from our facebook page.