Thousands follow the Straw Bear
Thousands turn out to see historic festival on streets of Whittlesey
Thousands of people gathered in Whittlesey to enjoy a unique celebration of the town’s past at the 34th annual Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival on Saturday and Sunday, lining the streets to see a whole host of performers.
Thousands of people gathered in Whittlesey and gave the icy weather the cold shoulder to enjoy a unique celebration of the town’s past.
The 34th annual Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival was held on Saturday and Sunday, with nearly 4,000 people braving the cold weather and lining the streets to see performances from dance troops including Peterborough favourites Pig Dyke Molly to newly formed groups, such as Oxford side Summertown Morris.
A number of Peterborough and Whittlesey schools also got involved, forming their own dance sides and taking part in the long procession through the town centre.
In total more than 700 dancers arrived in the town to take part in the colourful and musical traditional parade, and they were accompanied by the famous Straw Bear.
Rebecca Kell, dance team co- ordinator for the festival, said the dry weather had helped attract the crowds to the festival.
She said: “The weekend went very well.
“There were lots of people on the streets, and the weather stayed dry, and was not too cold, which always helps.
“We think there were somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people who came out, and more than 700 dancers from across the country, including one group from the Isle of Wight.
“It is an event that is always popular, but having weather like this, where the rain and snow stayed away, always brings more people out to enjoy the activities.
“There are a number of different styles of dancing on show from different regions of the country, which helps make this such a unique event.
“Everyone seemed to be having a great time at the festival, and we are already planning next year’s festival.”
The festival finished on Sunday with the spectacular burning of the bear, and the Plough Service.
And along with the dancing, there was also a variety of music and poetry performances taking place across the weekend.
There were also evening dance parties on Saturday, with the festivities lasting late into the night.
The Straw Bear Festival’s origins are thought to date back to the 19th century, when a straw bear would be taken around the town following Plough Monday.
The tradi-tion was banned s hortly afterwards, but was revived in 1980 after a 71 year absence.
During the weekend volunteers - known as Straw bearers - were on the streets collecting money to pay for next year’s festival, as well as some of the funds being donated to local good causes.
Rebecca Kell “Everyone seemed to be having a great time at the festival.”
Megan Randall as the Bear and Rob Taylor as Bear Keeper
Some of the colourful dancers perform at the festival.
Keeping the crowds entertained.
The annual Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival parade.
Hat’s the way to do it at the festival.