History in the making
St Neots Carnival weekend is fast approaching – an event which has seen much change over the last 60 years. It originally took place in the Market Square, with a large stage and tiered seating taking up half the square. The other half housed a large marqu
St Neots Carnival weekend is fast approaching - an event which has seen much change over the last 60 years.
It originally took place in the Market Square, with a large stage and tiered seating taking up half the square.
The other half housed a large marquee used by a trades fair during the day, and as a place for dancing when the fair finished.
Rock 'n' roll and ballroom dancing was on offer to keep carnival-goers of all ages happy.
Dancing also took place in the "public rooms", a building on the Market Square that now houses an estate agency, and the carnival queen competition was judged by national celebrities.
Going back six decades, St Neots Carnival could attract visitors from far and wide - an achievement organisers will try to match with this year's festivities.
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Janet Endersby, president of the carnival, said: "People used to come and visit their relatives in carnival week. They used it as their holiday."
Mrs Endersby believes the biggest difference between then and now is that the carnival used to last a week.
Insurance can also be a problem, which means the tightrope walkers, people on stilts and motorcycle acts of the past are much less likely to perform.
Local businesses also played an important role in past festivities. In the 1950s, Barretts used to set up a stall in the large marquee, and the family clothing store also staged fashion shows.
Although Barretts no longer sells clothes, the store is still on the site it has occupied for well over a century.
Full programmes for the 2007 event are available in St Neots for £1 from the Priory Centre, St Neots tourist information office and Cambridge Building Society.
Events surrounding this year's carnival have already begun, and the ever-popular quiz night is scheduled to take place on Thursday, August 23, at the Priory Centre.
Entry forms are available from the town council.
Saturday, August 25, sees the main feature, the carnival procession.
This year's carnival queen is Nicola Henderson, an 18-year-old student from Eynesbury. It will be the second time Nicola has been queen at the carnival - she represented St Neots in 2004.
A delegation of 21 visitors from St Neot, in Cornwall, will also attend the carnival, a reciprocal visit after a delegation from St Neots travelled south earlier this month.
This year's procession starts at 2pm from outside Priory Junior School, and will disperse at Riverside Park about two hours later.
The Air Cadets band will lead the carnival, ahead of the float carrying the carnival queen party.
There will also be two other bands in the parade, as well as four majorette troops and a vintage car display.
The event is aiming to break its charity collection record - £2,155 set 10 years ago.
On Saturday evening there will be an illuminated boat procession leaving Eaton Socon at 8.45pm, as well as a spectacular firework display - extra big for the 60th anniversary.
The events continue on Sunday. In Riverside Park there will be a Highland dancing competition and a bowls competition.
The carnival festivities will be brought to a close with the traditional service at Eynesbury Parish Church at 6.30pm on Sunday.
"We hope everyone supports it and supports all the people who put effort into it," Mrs Endersby said.
INFORMATION: Contact Jean Searle 01480 212298.