The man in charge of Cromer Carnival

Richard BatsonCromer Carnival is under way, building up to the big parade day on Wednesday. Richard Batson talks to the man in charge.Richard Batson

Screaming, smoking jets will dance in the sky over Cromer in a few days time, drawing patterns in the air, and drawing gasps from crowd-lined cliffs watching their thrilling flying antics. The Red Arrows display is a rare moment of noisy aerial action above a seafront more used to the gentle squawk of seagulls, and whirr of passing powered hang gliders.

And it is a signal that carnival time is in town once again - a week which draws tens of thousands of extra visitors to the already popular resort.

On Wednesday, August 18, is the climax, with a day of arena events, lunchtime air show, and evening parade of floats which fills the streets with music and inventive float and fancy dress creations.

But there is also a full week of activities starting with custom cars, bonny babies, knobbly knees and glamorous grannies this weekend, through to a fancy dress dance finale which sees the town brimming will all kinds of mad cap characters on their way to the marquee.

Carnival chairman Tony Shipp, who has been involved with the carnival for 39 of the 41 years in its current format, said the programme tried to provide a combination of events to watch and be part of the action.

'Carnival was built on taking part. We want people to join in rather than just stand and watch.'

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The programme had a pattern of popular events on the basis of 'if it ain't broke… don't mend it.'

But there were attempts to add in new things, though it was not always easy with such a packed week.

There was little doubt the carnival was good for the town, with most traders admitting it boosted the number of shoppers, and people wanting to buy a gift, or eat, said Mr Shipp, with the parade and flying display the two biggest draws.

Up to 80 items were in the parade, including bands and radio station cars, which took about 90 minutes to snake through town.

Clubs were finding it harder to get large trucks for floats, because of a combination of cost and insurance, but many more were joining the procession as fancy dress groups.

Cromer's connection with the Red Arrows went back to 1981 said Mr Shipp, and they had only missed the resort out of their flying programme twice since then, due to other commitments.

'We know they love flying along the clifftops at Cromer.

'Some people watch it on the pier and beaches, but the best view is at the carnival ground, which is at the centre of their display and cross-overs,' said Mr Shipp.

An estimated 30,000 people converge on Cromer on carnival day, and the week can only happen because of the army of volunteers who give up time to help out, and more were always needed for the manpower draining duties of parade marshals, collecting cash, manning gates and moving equipment.

Carnivals date back to the 1950s and beyond in the resort, before the Voluntary Entertainments Organisation took over 41 years ago.

Monday, August 16, sees one of the carnival's longest-running events, the waiters and waitresses races, which sees local staff from pubs, clubs and hotels, showing their drinking pouring and carrying skills as they dash along the prom.

Tuesday is traditionally the children's day with family activities dominating on the Runton Road carnival ground.

Many visitors book their holidays around the carnival week, so they can camp out and enjoy all the action. Just as many locals book the week off so they can join the army of helpers and get into the thick of the fun.

But those seeking just to drop in on one day will home in on Wednesday which is packed from morning until night.

Gates open from 9.30am. Motorcycle, falconry, heavy horse, sheepdog, and parachute display are punctuated by the Red Arrows - this year at noon - before the parade forms up and moves off at 7pm, and heads back to the carnival ground where rock covers band Firewire provides the entertainment.

Highlight of Thursday is the free fireworks display from 9.15pm before the action comes to an end on Friday with a mix of talent show and fancy dress fun.

More information about carnival is available at its website www.cromercarnival.co.uk, and anyone wanting to offer help can contact Mr Shipp on 01263 512591 or call Hubba on 07770 773491.

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