Bedford River Festival

Trip Start Jun 12, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

This weekend has been the Bedford River Festival - this takes place along the embankment once every 2 years. It's a huge event and over the duration of the weekend it attracts around 300,000 visitors. It's where you'll find me and John for the entire weekend every time it's on.
There are four different stages that host live music all weekend, featuring a number of local bands - which is always good because we note the best ones so that we are able to go and see them play in local pubs if we wish.  There are all sorts of river events such as dragon boat racing, raft races and wakeboarding. Then there are craft markets, continental markets and a whole host of street entertainers and vendors selling various foods to eat. A range of displays take place throughout the day such as people parachuting from a basket at the top of a large crane, dancing displays, martial arts, roman re-enactments and so much more. Saturday brings a massive carnival and the day is rounded off with an awesome fireworks display. The most amazing thing about all of this - it's completely free.
It opens at 11am both days, so Saturday we were there around 10 minutes before - we planned, as normal, to make the absolute most of it. The first thing we watched were some dragon boat races. There is a drummer sitting at the helm of each boat, who plays out a 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 beat, which the rowers are supposed to row in time to, but the rowers don't seem to take any notice of it and they are quite often totally uncoordinated, which is quite funny to watch. There were heats going on all the way through the day - we knew one of the teams in it, but they didn't get past the second round!
We, along with several others, waited for the carnival to arrive, it's usually a really brightly coloured mixture of costumes and floats, but much to our dismay we discovered that the carnival was taking a different route this year to the one they have taken every year before. By the time we actually got to where the carnival was, the procession was pretty much three quarters past and the pavement was about 5 or 6 people deep, so I didn't get any photographs of it - therefore I've posted a few of the procession from the last carnival.
Next we took a stroll round the roman village, where they were donning their outfits for the day, the woman were setting up the cooking pots and preparing food and a group of them were preparing to take two skin covered dug out log canoes down to the river - we weren't sure that they would actually float, so we followed them down to the bank to watch them launch. They did actually float in the end, but it was really amusing watching them all trying to get into them - they were rocking all over the place, we were seriously hoping for a capsize, but eventually they all negotiated themselves aboard and off they went, paddling around on the river.
One of the things we really like about this festival is the variety of food that is sold, so it wasn't long before our thoughts turned in that direction. First on the agenda was a crepe in the continental market - I had apple and cinnamon on mine and John had banana, chocolate and cream. Very nice, that done, we were set up and ready for the day ahead. We wandered on through the continental market - I love this part - it's a definite feast for your smelling sense, loads of different foods for general sale and for buying to eat then and there. This time there was Bratwurst sausages, varying types of crepes, waffles and pastries, paellas, fondues, breads, cheeses, basically endless options, which all look really delicious.
We make our way over to the acoustic stage to watch our first band of the day - Full Circle, they were very easy listening, they play a few songs and get halfway through the George Harrison song 'Here Comes The Sun' when the skies turn greyish black and the rain (not for the first time) starts to fall. The rain gets quite heavy and despite having rain jackets, trying to listen to a band in the pouring rain is simply not fun. There are so many things that living in England you have to be prepared to do in the rain, otherwise you would regularly be cancelling your plans - but an event like this is one of those things that the rain really does spoil - we'd been so excited about coming, but funny enough, all my visions in my head were of us lazing around on our blanket, listening to great music in the sunshine. The crowd slowly started moving away and we head for a craft tent hoping that the rain would pass. We spent the next hour strolling around looking at things and trying to dodge the rain.  Finally we got fed up with it and decided we weren't enjoying it - so for the first time ever we decided to leave the festival.  We start making our way back towards the car, cut up an alleyway and come out opposite the Cappuccino Bar and I suggested that we go in there for a drink, this we do and over our coffees we both agree that we don't want to go home, so we make a new plan which is to walk back down to the festival, get some food to eat and walk up to the local cinema. There is no way we would get parked up there now, so walking was the only option.
We finish our coffees and walk back through the festival - earlier during the day I had seen a band on the programme up on the main stage at the top of the festival that I wanted to see, John had seen a vegetarian stall up near there when we'd walked past earlier and that's where we were headed. When we got there John got a vegetarian chilli, with nachos, sour cream, the works, it made a change for him to get such a choice, he was tossing up between the chilli and the Thai curry for ages. As we started to eat, the band I wanted to see came onto the stage - it had stopped raining and although it was still very overcast I suggested we stay and watch the band while we eat - GOOD decision, the band turned out to be really good, the food was delicious and at moments there were breaks in the cloud to reveal blue sky. We were enjoying ourselves again and once we'd eaten we stayed and watched the rest of the set. I also had an interest in the next person coming on Jasmine Ava so we stayed and watched her too. We were back in the mood, the rain had disappeared for the day, so we looked at the programme and decided to head back down through the festival to the acoustic stage, where we put our blanket down and along with snacks and drinks we watched four different bands each lasting and hour - The Workshop Boys, Amy Lee, Straw Men and Cherry Lee Mewis & Band.
After the last band had played we made our back over to the other side of the river to find a spot to watch the fireworks which were due to go off relatively soon. So we take up our position and wait in anticipation for the spectacle we know is going to take place. Every year we have great expectations of the fireworks and every year they are met - the display is exceptional and without doubt the best fireworks anywhere that I've seen. The countdown begins and off they go shooting up into the sky booming and showering beautiful, bright, colourful sparks lighting up the sky.  Its top entertainment and I haven't seen such good fireworks since - ooooh, the last Bedford River Festival!!!!
Its now 11pm at night, it's been a tiring, but excellent day and we make our way back along the embankment and up to the car.
Before we went to the River Festival this morning, we went to a music shop in a nearby town - our mission was to get me a new saxophone which John wanted to get me for my birthday - my birthday is not till October, but I've found a local tutor who is able to teach me Blues style, its been a long time since I actually had my own saxophone - my first lesson is Thursday, I'm so excited!!!!!
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starlagurl on

I'm glad you didn't go home. You're not made out of sugar!

P.S. those food photos look greaaaaaaaat.

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

travelmonster on

Re: Good!
Thanks about the photos, the things I tasted were as delicious as they look!!

You are right about the rain - We would really have regretted it if we left.

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