The sun may not have shined during much of the weekend, but the rain held off for the March Summer Festival.
Thousands of people flocked to West End Park to enjoy the music, the Gala Parade through the town, the variety of stalls and amusements in the Lions Gala and a host of activities during the Picnic in the Park.
On Friday hundreds of people gathered in front of the open air stage to enjoy the line-up of ‘Rock in the Park’ which this year was chosen by the members of Young People March.
The evening included a selection of lively young and up-and-coming musicians – The Projectionist, Death Radio, Damaged and Her Dying Regret.
The Lion’s Gala occupied many during Saturday morning but by midday thousands lined the streets to see the Gala Parade, organised by Rob Skoulding and Graham Litchfield.
It was led by the Town Crier Bernard Keane and his wife Sheila riding a vintage tandem, followed by the Gala Princess Charlotte Brearley and her attendant Hannah Rose Howes (sponsored by March Lions and the Fenland Citizen), and March Mayor Cllr Andrew Pugh.
The colourful parade also included the Farcet Twist and Twirl Majorettes, Vivien the vintage fire engine (sponsored by former Mayoress Patsy Brewin), Sambanda and many other local groups, businesses and individuals.
When the crowds returned to West End Park, the Gala was officially opened by the March Lion’s President Mike Eatock, along with Andrew Pugh and Jason Wing. They were followed the presentation of the trophies to the parade winners: Willy Wonka (Mallett Trophy for Best in Parade) and the Ballet Dancers from Dance Mania (Skoulding Trophy for Best Individuals).
The fancy dress competition was judged by Patsy Brewin, Nigel Coley and Yvonne Eatock. The winners were: young children category – Talyn Gibson as Yoda and Holly Andrews as Rapunzel; older children – Laura Spies as Miss Perfect and Jake Spies as Woody from Toy Story; any age – Julie Spies as a clown and Collin Andrews as Summer. Prizes were donated by Boyes and The Toy Box.
The weather remained mild as the usual huge audience watched Lisa Dickinson’s Dance Mania and Sarah’s Street Style Dance perform, interspersed with brief performances by the talented young artists Misty Jones and Dan Austin and the promising young band, Radiowave.
Others wandered around the numerous gala stalls and attractions or enjoyed the other new spectacle of Pig Racing. There was also a chance to view the parade vehicles on display at Brewin Chase.
It was then time to enjoy Scooted’n’Booted, Soulweaver and The Band from County Hell. They were followed by the UK Beach Boys. Martin Goodjohn from Soulweaver remarked at the end of the evening that “the lovely festival, lovely sound, fantastic audience put a lot of other bigger festivals to shame”.
Sunday afternoon followed the usual pattern as hundreds of people arrived for ‘Picnic in the Park’, to hear the mellow music provided by Chatteris Town Band, The Dead Swingers and The Rainmen. Also on the stage were a number of talented local folk musicians, collectively known as Friendly Fenland Folk and a performance of old favourites by the members of March and District Amateur Operatic Society.
For the children there were varied activities including the ever popular circus skills workshop with Adrian Ley, storytelling by Paul Jackson and the colouring competition organised by Penny Hicks.
Prizes for the competition, mostly donated by Greetings, were awarded to Morgain Broad and Paige Talmage (Under 5 category); Kyle Sharman and Jarden Cains (5–7 years old); Daisy Brooks and Jodie Mottram (8–11 years old) and Siobhan Halliday and Jordan Stoner (12 and over). There was also a prize presented for outstanding achievement to Amber Freshwater. The afternoon was enhanced by face painting provided by Ellie Berry and friends.
Hundreds of people stayed in the park to enjoy the Last Night of the Proms style performance by the Alan Norris Big Band.
John Whitehead, the MC for the festival, said that he was delighted with the whole event and couldn’t think of a better way to describe it than by quoting a couple of cyclists who were travelling through the Fens, who said they had “never seen such a wonderful event put on anywhere else on their travels”.
The Grand Prize Draw winners were: M Chapman (meal for 2 at the Shah Jahan); S Hennells (carvery meal for 2 at Cassano’s); P Hickst (carvery meal for 2 at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel); M Smith (meal for 2 at Ye Olde Griffin; B Grant (£25 voucher for The Ship); L Wilkes (£20 Stardust voucher); S Rutter and D Edwards (craft kits from Storeys); R Crabb (CDs from WMS Music).
The March Summer Festival Committee thanked John Whitehead, the stallholders, the parade participants and the numerous volunteers who helped run the event and local businesses who have given help and sponsorship.
They would also like to say that help is 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 01354-653709.
The March Summer Festival is made possible by grants from March Town Council, Fenland District Council and PRS for Music. A list of supporters can be found on the website www.marchsummerfestival.co.uk