Report on March Summer Festival 2000

Report from the Fenland Citizen Wednesday July 12 2000

Many months of planning and hard work culminated this weekend with the successful March Summer Festival which went like “an absolute dream,” according to one of its main organisers.

The centre of March came to a standstill on Sunday for the Festival Parade, seen by many as the highlight of the weekend, made up of 450 to 500 people with colourful floats, bands and a huge banner parade of 300 people entertaining the crowds.

At the head of the parade was carnival princess, 10 year-old Holly Morton, and her attendant, five-year-old Lauren Hall, with the town’s Mayor and Mayoress, Barry and Audrey Wales.

One of the favourite parts of the parade was a huge Chinese dragon, which had been sponsored by March Chamber of Commerce. March ATC band were also featured in the procession.

One of the main organisers of the parade, March businessman and councillor, Bernard Keane said he was “thrilled to bits” with the day: “The town was packed,” he said.

“The crowds were enormous, and even the weather held off. We did have one shower, which started just as the skydivers were coming down over West End Park, but it didn’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment.”

Mr Keane said he was a little disappointed with the number of floats in the parade – only five – saying this side of the event could have had more support, with some companies letting them down, but Mr Keane said the sheer enthusiasm and support for the other aspects of the parade more than made up for this. Mr Keane says he hopes that the weekend will have raised several thousand pounds for local charities.”

The 2000 weekend also saw the new-look Market Place officially opened, by the Chairman of Fenland District Council, John Barker, alongside celebrations to mark the 100th birthday of March Town Hall and its secured future with the March Civic Trust. The building could have been lost with the closing of the magistrates’ court, but was saved for the community, thanks to the benefactors Joan and Peter Skoulding.

The Lions Club of March (chartered in 1976) had been organising the Carnival/Gala continuously since 1992. The Summer Festival has, since it started in 2000, ‘wrapped’ around the Lions event, with the former organising the events on the stage (and in the arena in some years) along with the parade and the latter organising the stalls and the other activities on the Park.

The Gala has always been a one day event, being held on the Saturday, beginning with the parade of decorated floats, which were judged for a prize, by the Mayor, who presented this and the awards to the Gala Princess at the opening of the Gala.

In these early years the Gala comprised up to forty stalls run by fund raising charity groups from around the town and a few commercial enterprises. For several years a Car Boot sale was also held in the morning and again for a number of years a Dog show was also organised.

Today food vendors attend the festival, and the Gala. When the Lions ran the whole event, refreshments were provided by them. The whole thing was run on a shoe-string budget, with expenses kept as low as possible and all profits were used to support local good causes.

Compiled from information provided by Trevor Quince on behalf of the Lions Club of March. April 2014.