Americans are fond of, and even nutso about festivals – almost every town has a festival annually to celebrate the harvest of watermelons or strawberries or whatever the area is noted for growing. It’s a big gas for a day or two and then all the plywood watermelons with holes cut where the seeds would be for melon-slimed kid’s faces to peer through are packed away until the day next year. The sleepy little town goes back to normal until, perhaps, the Autumn festival or the Thanksgiving day parade.
We Yanks don’t hold a candle to the Brits. A small village here may have a dozen festivals in a year, sponsored by the village itself, churches, Irish-jumping Dancer’s Societies or just about any excuse. Fetes’ are chance to enjoy “all sorts” as our English friends are wont to say. We, American’s, also don’t have any generic holidays as an excuse for a festival – the Brits have the classic “Bank Holiday” multiple times a year – perfect for a fete’. (Though America is gaining ground with such enriching examples as National Doughnut Day and Talk like a Pirate Day – no festivals yet, but it can only be a matter of time.
Sherbourne, home of the Castles by the same name, once owned and developed by Sir Walter Raleigh, is a very classically “pretty village”. With a year round population, including the outlying rural areas of under 10,000 and many building dating back to 600 to 1600 A.D. (and with these buildings still inhabited and in use), it’s a great place to visit.
The annual Festival attracts every thing that our county fairs do back home, but with some differences. #1 would have to be orderly crowds. I’d estimate that the population of Sherbourne almost doubled for the day – it wasn’t the noticeable lack of fighting after someone has made multiple visits to the gin tasting tent, but the good nature and civility of every single person we encountered.
Also, in the States we don’t typically have:
Dragon Boat Races
Our own pet dogs at the fair, but here there were so many as parts of various dog show and a very great many that were just out for the day
(above) A judged pack of beagles (below) Just a bunch of random dogs
A hunting pack of judged bloodhounds
Ancient livestock breeds that go back to the Stone age
Irish Jumping (folk) Dancers and Drum, fife and bagpipes (ye canna nae hae a faire wi’ out bagpipes, laddie”
The Blackrock School of Irish (jumping) Dancers The Wessex Highlanders and Downton’s Carson the butler as a Shire horse judge…………… .”would that be the best horse you have on show, m’lord?”Not really the actor Jim Carter in guise as Carson, but a strong resemblance in profile to this livestock judge who was sartorially excellent!
No country fair would dare present itself with the roots of the whole idea; (barring the rites of fertility, of course!), live stock on show.
Horses:Note the well dressed judge with his very nice bowler and staff
Mom with a really nice foal
Beribboned horses and tweed for the handlers were the order of the day
Just a wee lad..er, maybe not!
Hair color by Trump
A Swaledale ram…for the uninitiated, this is a male sheep, not a goat
and goats, Face on, this goat looked rather like Donald Trump with a hard gel in his hair…no offense intended, just an observation.
And for their obvious love of all animals, domestic and wild, the folks from the U.K. are very pragmatic about their animal companions – two shots from the same sheep promoting stall………
and In the U.K., PETA might be an acronym for People Eating Tasty Animals (?)
The festival had activityies for every one- archery: Young Sir Louis Hobden of Pewsey taking aim
And to round the day out, there was Sporting clays-(Yikes, using real over and under shot guns – but don’t fret folks, they were reworked with batteries and lasers and there was “absolutely no danger of a random shooting!” (so said the lady as she waved a very nice looking shotgun directly in my face – clearly having never handled a real firearm.)
There were racing ferrets (missed this!), Morris dancers, who as it turns out did not originate with the Druids banging their, uh, well “sticks” together, but instead started up during the 15th century and were the original organized Black Face performers as in the Moorish tradition and today, after a period of little interest, are now back in vogue throughout the U.K., Europe and former possessions, sans the blackened face, of course….The Wessex Morris Men
I haven’t been to a county fair in many years back in the States, but would go all the time if they were conducted like this one..I’m shooting for the Buckham Fair next time over.