An introduction from Thomas Hadfield on the eve of Carnival 2011.
Flags will soon be fluttering above the streets of Eynsham, signalling the arrival of yet another Carnival. Every year, on the first Saturday of July, the streets come alive with hordes of excited children, while adults relish the prospect of time with friends. The Carnival has been Eynsham’s most celebrated tradition since the end of World War Two, entertaining several generations and creating a sense of community in the village.
As its 65th anniversary approaches, what makes Eynsham Carnival so special: why is it thriving after so many years?
One secret of the Carnival's ongoing popularity is the provision of entertainment for adults and children alike. For a village child its appeal is unarguable. The fair that transforms Oxford Road recreation ground, where the main festivities take place, has young people of all ages saving pocket money for weeks. Classic attractions such as the dodgems, the crazy cottage and the Mexican hat are joined by various stalls and arcades to create a scintillating experience.
Furthermore, the parade beforehand offers a moment of glory for members of regular clubs, such as the beavers and brownies. Fortunate girls may even appear as Carnival queen or attendant, positions of pride in the Carnival procession.
If waltzing around the field with cuddly toys and a painted face has lost its charm, there is still plenty to do. The day holds far more for adults than a dull wait whilst kids enjoy the rides. Every year the smooth sound of a jazz band rolls across the field, creating a relaxed environment for everyone in the area. Opposite the band is a large beer tent, with cool refreshments to keep you in the mood. A BBQ supplies flame-grilled nutrition for bystanders, while other attractions such as the craft fair and performing artists draw in crowds from far and wide.
The Carnival is also cherished for its celebration of traditions, some of them unique to Eynsham since their decline in other areas. The famous Shirt Race is held in particularly high regard and evokes fond memories for countless Eynsham residents.
Since its inception in 1959 the formula has varied little, with dolled-up carts and prams careering from pub to pub. The contestants' costumes range from drag queens to gladiators to cartoon characters - with amusement much enhanced by the rule that half a pint must be sunk at every watering hole!
Another proud tradition on display at Carnival is Eynsham Morris Dancing. “Eynsham Morris has a long and distinguished history, which has been documented from 1856 and probably stretches back at least two hundred years before that.” While in many modern towns and villages the tradition has been lost over the decades, it still thrives at Eynsham Carnival. This keeps us in touch with our heritage and contributes to the day's uniqueness. Attributes like these make the Carnival dear to residents and provide “a great day out” for newcomers. May it continue for many years to come.
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Awaken memories of the old smithy on Newland Street and the Catholic Apostolic Church on Mill Street at a free exhibition in the Oxfordshire Museum, Park Street, Woodstock - daily exc Monday 10:00-17:00 until 5 July
Giving something back to our community: a round-up from the Eynsham News team
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