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First Dereham carnival for over 20 years, and the whole town was packed with people enjoiyng the eve

First Dereham carnival for over 20 years, and the whole town was packed with people enjoiyng the event. - Credit: Archant

Thousands lined the streets as carnival returned to Dereham after a 20-year absence today.

Families picnicked along the route as the colourful parade wound its way around the town centre, before packing into the Recreation ground for an afternoon of entertainment.

More than 20 floats set off from Greenfields Road, passing through Norwich Road, Crown Road, Neatherd Road and Wellington Road, before turning into the packed High Street.

There were cheers and applause for the parade, led by armoured vehicles from the Swanton Morley-based Queen's Dragoon Guards, a samba band and carnival queen Alicica Colman and her six attendants.

As the parade dispersed on London Road, the crowds flooded into the 'rec, as the afternoon's live entertainment got under way. More than 5,000 are believed to have turned out for the afternoon, numbers undoubtedly boosted by one of the sunniest days of the year.

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'There was hardly a gap in the crowd all the way around,' said Dereham mayor Phillip Duigan, as he took a breather from completing the parade route on foot with town council colleagues.

'A lot of people had got their deck chairs out and were having a picnic. We've got to thank him up there, it's probably the best Sunday of the year so far.

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'I don't think there's been a community event like this for a very long time.'

Organisers spent 14 months organising the event. Committee member Judy Rogers said most had never been involved with such a large event.

'People locally were saying wouldn't it be nice to have it back so we thought: 'Let's do it,' she added.

Secretary Bridget Doyle said: 'It's something town could really do with, it's easy to forget what community spirit is, it's nice to bring it back.'

Jo Tomlin, who organised the craft stalls, said she had tried to 'stay local' with her exhibitors.

'It's trying to build a community spirit into the heart of Norfolk because Dereham's dead centre in Norfolk, it's the heart,' she said.

Main arena events included dog agility, the air cadets, birds of prey, the obligatory tug-o-war and a ju-jitsu display.

Headliners the Thinking Men were supported by acts including Truescape, Nocturna, and Lewis Murphy on the music stage.

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