|The Oxford Waits entertaining the crowds at the 2007 Boarstall Fête
(Photograph by Rob Dixon).
"The Best Local Fête by Far"
After many years of good or, more often, very fine weather at the Boarstall Fête, it was inevitable that one year the weather would be bad. This was that year. Given the recent forecast, this was hardly unexpected. But it could have been so much worse and, although attendance figures were down, they were about the same as in 2002 when there was no rain, demonstrating how the reputation and popularity of Boarstall Fête have grown over recent years. As a result, many people, anxious not to miss out on the best local Fête by far, arrived with umbrellas and boots, determined to enjoy themselves whatever the weather. The Fête committee had feared that, when it did rain, because of the high fixed costs of the various attractions, lower visitor numbers might mean an overall loss, so they were very happy with an estimated profit of about £2,900. The Fête committee is very grateful to all who helped as well as to the generous sponsors.
There was plenty to distract the attention of the crowds from even the heaviest showers. The wonderful Bletchington Silver Band opened proceedings with their melodious sound, as they do every year. The steam section is always a major part of the Fête, and this year, as always, it pulled in the crowds. As well as traction engines, steam rollers, old lorries, tractors and cars, there were steam, petrol and diesel stationary engines. Boarstall is a small village of just 51 houses, so organising well over one hundred exhibits is a major effort for so small a community, as is the erection of so many signs around the Bernwode Forest area. The children much enjoyed the Punch and Judy and other side shows and were very impressed by the street entertainer, who could even head a large ball when on his very long stilts. The alpacas, on their first visit, were a little nervous of the crowds who went to admire them. The bric-a-bric stalls, sheltering under the trees and gazebos, did not get washed away and did good business, as did the tombola, the raffle, the cake stall, the book stall and others, including the bar. The showers meant that people climbing three storeys to the roof of Boarstall Tower spent more time en route studying the fine and expanded display of historical artifacts in the banqueting chamber.
The organisers always find new ways to entertain the crowds whilst ensuring that the essential atmosphere of a traditional English village fête is maintained. A major new attraction was the Oxford Waits, who performed 17th century popular music in period costume, playing instruments of the time, such as hurdy gurdy, arch lute and shawm. They were not going to be put off by the rain and managed to find cover when they were performing during a shower. This was an excellent band, totally appropriate for the Fête and much enjoyed by the crowds.
The next Boarstall Fête will be on Saturday June 21st 2008. Please put the date in your diary now!