The dates for the 2018 Festival are from the 8th till the 10th of June.
A report on the March Summer Festival 2017 by Maureen James
The sun shone down on the 18th March Summer Festival Weekend, enabling festival goers to enjoy the wonderful community event, which included a welcome new addition in the form of the Soap Box Derby, organised by the March Lions.
On Sunday at the Oxbow Crescent end of West End Park, a couple of hundred people watched as 8 entrants competed (5 junior and 3 adult teams) driving hand made vehicles, relying completely on gravity (and pushers) to move around the course.
Trophies were presented to winning vehicles in two categories – Juniors - Winning team: The Squire Boyz (Dylan and Toby Squires), Runner up: Team Hollie (Hollie and Colin Andrews) and Adults – Winning team: The Wheel Nutters (Ben and Dawn Shephard), Runner up: Team c21P3, (March fire fighters). A trophy was also awarded for the Best presented cart to Jakob Kightly. A special thank you was given to March Athletic Club for providing "pushers"
Soap Box events have been held in the USA since the 1930s, and may well have been named after the large wooden crates used by impromptu speakers especially during political campaigns.
The weekend had started early on Friday evening when crowds were entertained first by talented young soloists Sophie Frear and Katy May followed by the powerful voice of Cerys Pughsley accompanied by her friend Graham on guitar. Next on stage was the impressive four-piece rock band Pretty Ace big guitar sounds of, the racy Tori Lamour and festival regulars Damaged.
Saturday morning saw the City Road Car Park filled with local groups and classic vehicles for the spectacular parade around the town. Thousands of people lined the streets as firstly the Classic Vehicle Parade and then the Gala Princess, 10 year old Caitlin Beaumont, in a horse-drawn carriage provided by George Sharman, followed by various floats, bicycles and hundreds of walkers, passed by, many of the participants picking up on the theme of Flower Power/Summer of Love.
At the back of the parade was an eco-vehicle powered by a cross-trainer. This “wacky-races” style tricycle, constructed by Stuart Rayner, and perhaps the first of its kind, almost didn’t make it into the parade, but thanks to help from two members of the local fire brigade, took an active part.
Stuart explained “I had constructed the vehicle to inspire others, but couldn’t find anyone to ride it in the parade. Thankfully the boys from the fire station ‘rescued’ it at the last minute. They really saved the day!”
As the parade came back to the park, the crowds gathered to experience the delights of the March Lions Gala which was opened by the Gala Princess, accompanied by Lions President Ian Groome and Mayor Kim French, after a minute of solidarity to the people of Manchester and London, led by MC Gary Tustin.
The Grand Opening was followed by presentations to the winners of the Parade by the judge, Marcus Phillips, March Summer Committee Chairman. The Skoulding Trophy was awarded to March Girl Guides as best group, and the Mallett Trophy to Colin & Holly Andrews for best individuals. Bruce Smith then stepped forward to present trophies to the Best Vehicle – an American Police Car and the Best Car – a white MGT with supercharger.
The Fancy Dress was next, with many entrants continuing with the festival theme. Penny Hicks the judge presented prizes, donated by Boyes, to Calleigh Baldock as Under 8s winner, with Jessica and Jenny Knight as runner-ups; Holly Andrews age 8 to 16 winner, with Lily as runner up; Ben Shepherd over 16s winner, with Colin Andrews, runner up. The Patsy Brewin Trophy was also presented to Holly Andrews as best Under 16 and a special prize was also given to Sharon Shepherd.
After the presentations the dancing commenced with a very moving performance by the older classes of Lisa Dickinson Dance Mania, that skilfully illustrated the conflict between the Vietnam War and the Peace movement epitomised in this year's festival theme.
The exquisitely dressed and elaborately coiffured dancers of the Casey Academy of Irish Dancing followed with a fast paced set of dances to music from the Emerald Isle. After they left the stage the 20Twenty Productions Choir took over providing a selection of popular songs. The Gala section of the festival ended with a selection of songs by the talented 15 year old Abigail Miller who also played the guitar.
Pop in the Park followed with performances by the ever popular local covers band Whiskey Twist and the unpretentious but highly skilled Jimi Hendrix tribute, Purple Jimi. As the temperature dropped, the crowd remained to watch a memory jogging performance of 1970s songs by aptly named All Glammed Up.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny as the teams in the park began to prepare for the fun dog show, sponsored by Doggy Styling and the Picnic in the Park. By 12.30 hundreds of people had arrived to enjoy the fun as the Fenland Community Orchestra started to play a selection of mellow tunes, conducted by Ceri Griffin. A number of the younger musicians remained on stage for the next act – Fenland Youth Swing Band conducted by 17 year old George Garford.
As the Soap Box Derby (mentioned above) started the Fun Dog Show, which was also at the far end of the park was in full swing with a record number of participants competing in categories which included Waggiest Tail and Best Smile.
In the children's arena, near the Bandstand, families enjoyed circus skills with Adrian Ley, face painting by Hayley Dolbear; nature activities provided by the Friends of Rings End Nature Reserve; and the ever popular colouring competition organised by Penny Hicks and Young People March (YPM).
Prizes for the colouring competition (donated by Greetings) were later given to Tyler Askham and Harrison (Under 8s); Libby Brown and Reece Kyle Simpson (8-11 year olds); Rowan Jack Ley and Jorja Brown (12 plus). Additional prizes, supplied by YPM, were also presented to Evie Newman, James Venni and Damien Howe.
Back on the stage, families enjoyed the delightful touring choir of March & District Operatics Society (MADAOS) followed by the evocative sounds of the string quartet The Stringlers, the close harmonies of Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer and the blues rock showmanship of The Paddy Maguire Band.
As Stephanie Hare, Event Manager noted “Hundreds of people remained in the park for the final concert, a fitting end to a very successful weekend. March Summer Festival Committee would like March Town Council; Fenland District Council; the stallholders; the parade participants; the numerous volunteers who helped run the event and local businesses and organisations who gave help, prizes and sponsorship.
The March Summer Festival is non-profit making and is made possible by grants from March Town Council, Fenland District Council and PRS for Music along with advertising revenue, sponsorship and donations made during the weekend.
There is also a gallery of photographs of the event, courtesy of Anthony Hylton & Helen Spall.