AS forecast, the weather rained on Bishop’s Stortford's carnival parade today (Saturday, June 22) – but the community spirit shone through.
The heavens opened at 1pm, 30 minutes after the procession of almost 50 floats and walking groups had set off from their assembly point at Rhodes, the arts complex in South Road.
Hundreds of people on lorry trailers, in vehicles and on foot made their way along South Street, North Street, Hadham Road and The Causeway to Sworder's Field, where entertainment and attractions for all the family continued until gone 4.30pm.
Hundreds more lined the route, though the poor weather – which was more akin to the other end of the calendar than the second day of summer – was no doubt responsible for the empty gaps on the pavements along North Street.
The hour-long procession was led by police outriders in the form of five cyclists, including Stortford's Insp Chris Hunt, and a quad bike rider.
At the head of the parade were the town's two fire engines and their crews, followed by Firefly, a vintage fire engine which was bought to serve Stortford in 1935 and operated until 1966. The vehicle is now in need of a permanent local home.
Firefly carried the mayor of Bishop's Stortford, Cllr Janice Elliott, her husband Graham and their young daughters, Emaelia and Alexis. The 33-year-old first citizen was distinctive with a large green feather in her carnival hairdo, courtesy of the Eden hair and beauty salon in Water Lane.
Music was provided by the Haverettes All Girls Marching Band, a military-style band based in Hornchurch whose members range in age from eight to 25. In their 48-year history they have competed at national level, performed in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, and appeared with pop stars Blur, Inspiral Carpets and Enya.
The first float with costumed characters was that of Rhodes promoting their Christmas panto, Aladdin, complete with a blue-skinned genie and a smoke machine.
Less dramatically, but equally as eye-catching in their costumes, were the walking group from Stortford amateur drama collective the Water Lane Theatre Company.
Stortford's strength in depth in young dance talent was illustrated by the Jacqui Ison Theatre Arts group – some of whose members sported Team England Dance World Cup tops – and the Jenny Myhill School of Dance, which was one of two entries adjudged by Cllr Elliott to be the best turned out.
The other winning float was that of Bishop's Stortford rugby club's youth section, which featured 50-60 youngsters bouncing up and down to Gangnam Style.
Both the Jenny Myhill dance school and the rugby club were presented with a cheque for £100 from the mayor at Sworder's Field later in the afternoon.
One of the loudest entries was the Bishop's Stortford Hockey Club float featuring members of all ages in their club kit.
The work put into the Grove Cottage 'Far, Far Away' float, with its make believe theme, was evident. Their entry featured David McConnell, chairman of trustees of the Mencap centre in London Road, dressed as the Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Other charities that took part in the parade – and capitalised on the opportunity to collect coins from the carnival onlookers – were Isabel Hospice, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, the Papworth Trust, St Elizabeth's – the national epilepsy centre at Perry Green – and Kisses4Kids, the charity started by young Much Hadham brain tumour patient Stacey Johnson to give children in hospital and their families a boost.
There was a sizeable congregation on foot from the Bishop's Stortford Community Church.
The only school represented was Thorley Hill Primary, who were headed by a trio dressed as superheroes Spiderman, Batman and Captain America.
Still on the youth front, members of the Bishop's Stortford detachment of the Hertfordshire Army Cadet Force looked ready for a yomp across country, never mind a march from one end of town to the other.
Members of the Dunmow Players' youth group, 3Ds, were dressed and made up as kings of the jungle as they performed I Just Can't Wait To Be King from the musical The Lion King.
The Sammy and Claire Zumba fitness group brought the essence of Latin American carnival to a dank and drizzly Bishop's Stortford with their energy and whistles.
A New York Police Department vehicle was promoting the Saffron Walden Motor Show, and striking in pink was a Volkswagen Beetle promoting Baby Ballet.
Rather ominously, the tail of the procession featured the Hertfordshire Boat Rescue and Bishop's Stortford Lifesaving Club with a canoe on top of a vehicle. Fortunately, carnival organisers did not need to call upon their services.
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