Thou­sands fol­low the Straw Bear

Thou­sands turn out to see his­toric fes­ti­val on streets of Whit­tle­sey

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Yourtelegraph - By KenMcEr­lain ken. mcer­lain@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk Twit­ter: @ PTKenMcEr­lain 01733 588728

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.

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