Imagine the sweet sound of bird song, the warm rays of early morning sunshine across King Alfred’s statue, the chiming of the church bells and the light footsteps of a keen dog-walker across the market square. A scene you could easily imagine on a beautiful summer Sunday morning.
Not however on Sunday 11 June!
Instead at 6.45am, the excited chatter of Trustees could be heard setting up the road closure barriers and erecting the Trust stand which would be their base for the day.
Soon they were joined in the Market Square by a procession of fairground vehicles which quickly set up their rides, stalls and attractions like a well-oiled machine, ready to entertain the families of Wantage at this year’s carnival.
Stall holders began arriving and setting up over the next couple of hours. Despite being a beautiful sunny morning, the breeze did prove challenging when assembling gazebos and securing banners but in true community spirit, everyone helped each other out to get the job done with kind words and laughter.
By 11.00am the market was buzzing with activity, music and wonderful smells as the people of Wantage strolled into the heart of their community to meet family, friends and neighbours for an afternoon of fun and entertainment.
The carnival was officially opened at 12.00 by The Mayor of Wantage, Steve Trinder, who along with the Town Cryer, lead a procession around the Square comprising a number of vintage cars, troops of scouts and the Rock Choir.
The musical entertainment was opened by The White Lakes. Throughout the course of the day five local bands and the Oxford Rock Choir entertained the crowds, all bringing their own unique style and flavour to proceedings.
The Rock Choir proved incredibly popular as their infectious smiles and cheery disposition spread to everyone who saw or heard them. These ladies’ voices lifted the crowds as adults and children alike sang and danced along to the popular tunes, enjoying the unity and sense of community shared by these wonderful women.
Dotted around the Square were various food and drink stalls to suit all tastes and appetites from candyfloss to cheesy balls, kebabs to frozen yoghurt, mead to prosecco. The aroma of al fresco cooking tempted most to part-take in a morsel or two as they sashayed between the stalls admiring the wares, getting themselves henna tattooed or having their hand cast in wax.
During the course of the day, Trustees and Friends of the Trust wrote names on over 1300 raffle tickets as folk were drawn to the first prize of a dishwasher (or was it the chocolate or alcohol hamper they really craved?!). Eight fabulous prizes were won thanks to generous donations by local businesses.
Lenny’s Lizards proved popular as ever, attracting many to admire and handle the stunning reptiles brought along by Steve. Adults and children alike posed for photos with snakes and lizards, many overcoming deep-seated irrational fears or achieving a lifetime ambition. Donations were collected to support the rescue centre and the wonderful work they do with these enchanting creatures.
Excited squeals resounded across the Square as children bounced and somersaulted on the bungee trampolines, braved the haunted house and tried their skills at Tin Can Alley.
A group of students from King Alfred’s lead by Ellie Mae Smith held a dance Flashmob in aid of child mental health and in memory of their friend who sadly took her own life last year. The group raised an impressive £175 and brought tears to many eyes and the loudest cheers of the day.
More wheelchair users were able to attend the carnival this year, thanks to the Mobiloo, paid for by Wantage Town Council. This was the first event in Oxfordshire to hire the unit and thanks to its success, the Council has now committed a budget to ensure it is available at all future public events in the town.
By 6pm the crowds were thinning out as children were taken home for baths and bed after a fun and tiring afternoon in the fresh air. Stalls were disassembled and packed away in readiness for the next event as Trustees thanked everyone for their continued support.
The Square was clear by 9pm as the Trustees and volunteers reflected on the achievements of the day. The Carnival had brought everyone together, several generations of the same families enjoying the attractions and sharing valuable quality time with their loved ones, providing a well-deserved break from the rat race.
Without the help and support of their volunteers (Friends of the Trust), these events would not be possible. Giving up an hour or two of their time, these generous souls make all the difference, enabling the Trust to create successful events which raise much needed funds for their causes.
The day cost £3500 and after costs raised just under £6000 for the Trust – money which will be used to support local families and individuals in need or in isolation in our community.
The carnival was only possible once again thanks to the amazing support from local businesses who all featured in the carnival programme.
Special thanks to Specsavers Wantage, LJ&CA Cannings, Douglas Simmonds, Ultra Home Services, In Fine Spirits, Paul Pieri, Peter B Ledbury Ltd, KA Fitness, The Fitness Space and the Wantage Town Council to name a few.
Planning is already under way to make next year’s carnival bigger and better.
The majority of the crowd left saying best carnival ever, fantastic bands, stalls, funfair and an amazing atmosphere all day, ignited by the awesome Rock Choir who were the perfect way to start the carnival proceedings.
It’s so pleasing for all of the team to see all their hard work come to fruition and enhanced by the weather made it the perfect day. We cannot wait for next year already!