THOUSANDS of spectators are expected to line the pavements of the county town for the 52nd Taunton Carnival on Saturday (October 21).
Here’s all you need to know about the big event.
The annual illuminated procession moves off at 7pm sharp from the bridge in Tangier Way and down into Wood Street.
It turns right into Bridge Street before going up through the town centre into East Street and down over East Reach.
The public performance and judging ends at the junction with Wordsworth Drive.
The spectacle begins with a cavalcade of the ever-popular Harley Davidson motorcycles parading around the route to ‘warm up’ the crowds followed by last –year’s class-winning Ilminster Majorettes.
Feature, tableau and comic floats will eclipse the street lights with their dazzling displays using hundreds and hundreds of light bulbs interspersed between the wonderful walking entries – with themes ranging from circus to beautiful creatures.
Over the last three Saturdays Wellington, Ilminster and Chard have hosted the procession with the majority of entries appearing there proudly showing off the floats and costumes they’ve spent weeks bringing together.
As well as being out to entertain the crowds they are competing in a dozen different classes for coveted local trophies, and points towards the overall South Somerset Federation awards.
Carnival is full of friendly rivalry so holding the cups aloft in front of the competition can be more important than the prize money.
The whole procession comprises over 70 items and will take just over an hour to pass any one point on the mile long route.
This year’s Miss Taunton, the Carnival Queen, Eloise Gould and Carnival Princess Elsa Whitworth will take pride of place near the front of the procession looking extremely regal in their gowns, cloaks and tiaras.
DURING THE DAY.
On Saturday morning historic cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles will process through the town centre in convoy before forming up in High Street.
These are always an attraction to both young and old and plenty will cast an envious or rose-tinted eye over them.
As an incentive to all the car owners to keep everything gleaming and in tip-top condition, Miss Taunton, Eloise Gould will pick out ‘the most pleasing vehicle’ in her eyes to receive the annual Spiller Trophy.
Children can join in the Mask and Hat Competition being held at the Museum of Somerset from 10.30am to 2pm.
The Mayor, Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey, will judge the entries and present the Mayor’s Millenium Cup to the winner.
QUALITY CARNIVAL MERCHANDISE.
The carnival committee will be selling official carnival merchandise this year during the day in High Street and during the procession.
Visibly branded official sellers will be out on the streets selling high quality ‘light-ups’ and toys.
Committee chairman Marilyn House said: “We want to keep as much of the public’s money in the local economy.
“To do that we’re selling quality carnival merchandise ourselves and encourage spectators to buy from the official sellers during the day and from the two official lorries in the evening.
“Many spectators won’t realise that other traders and pedlars come from outside the area and none of their proceeds goes to Taunton Carnival or local charities at all.”
Taunton Carnival Committee puts in all the hard work organising the procession for two main purposes – to provide a spectacle in the town’s calendar of events and to raise money for local charities.
“Our main charity this year is Love Musgrove,” said treasurer Roz Swinburne.
“They’ll be with us during the day in High Street so come along and find out more about them.
“During the evening procession there will be dozens of official collectors on the ground.
“Please empty your pockets and give them a busy and successful night.
“The reward for performers and event organisers alike is to see all the collecting tins full and piles of coins on the lorries.
“Show your appreciation by getting rid of all that loose change and old £1 coins you’ve been keeping since last October.
“If everyone put £1 or 50p coins into the collection we’d easily have a record year.
“Of course we don’t mind what coins or notes come our way but we do need a lot of them please.
“We’re happy if it takes us all day Sunday to count it.”
ROAD CLOSURES AND TRAFFIC DIVERSIONS.
Castle Street will be closed to traffic between the entrance to Tangier and Castle Street car parks as will Tangier Way down to the junction with Wood Street from 2pm to allow all the entries to assemble and get ready for the evening’s show.
The town centre will be closed at 6.30pm so the procession route can be cleared of traffic before the crowds move in to line the pavements.
Through traffic is directed away from the centre to keep it moving and to keep a clear access to Musgrove Park Hospital.
The official east-west diversion is Obridge Viaduct, Priorswood Road, Greenway Road, Staplegrove Road, Silk Mills Road and Wellington Road.
No vehicles will be able to leave Wood Street, Yarde Place, Haydon Road or Victoria Gate on to the route while the procession is taking place, between 6.30pm and around 9pm.
There will be an alternative route out of the Wood Street area via Cleveland Street and French Weir Recreation Ground.
The carnival committee works very closely with all the emergency services to make sure everything on and off the procession route runs smoothly on carnival night.
There are marshals all along the route to keep an eye on spectators and make sure the procession passes safely.
These are closely supported by local police, with St John Ambulance crews from across Somerset around the route in case of accidents to participants or spectators alike.
Senior staff from the emergency services and other agencies come together with the organisers in a joint control room where they are ready to co-ordinate action should anything unforeseen happen.
The carnival clubs all have safety guidelines and good practice notes to follow to keep their members safe.
Planning the carnival is a round the clock activity for the committee, with much of the work behind the scenes.
Carnival secretary John Lewis said: “Every year is different and brings its own challenges.
“Advice from the emergency services, county highways and Taunton Deane Borough Council is always welcome.
“We’ve worked together with them all for many years to make sure everything is organised and recorded well in advance in the Event Management Plan.
“This gives us a safe platform for all the clubs and individuals who spend many hours to bring the spectacle to life on the night.
“I’d like to thank all of them and all the volunteers who are out there on Saturday evening.
“Once again the Performing Rights Society has helped keep costs down by shown in waiving a large part of the copyright fees due for musical entertainment.
“Our ambition is always to give to our charities everything that we collect on Saturday plus a little bit more.
“Inevitably costs go up every year for the background things like insurance, traffic management and health and safety.
“Carnival is not a cheap event to put on and the committee organises Taunton Marathon and Half Marathon and 10k road races earlier in the year to bring in the money we need.
“We’ve had sponsorship and support from lots of local companies over the years for many of our activities.
“Without them none of this would happen. What we need to cap it all now is good weather and full collecting tins this weekend.
“Please dig deep to help us keep the carnival tradition alive in Taunton and support this year’s chosen charities.
“Remember to buy your ‘lightups’ and toys from our official sellers.”
For any other information on the day’s events click here or if you would like to heklp in any way contact Marilyn House on 01823-289395 (e-mail [email protected]) or John Lewis on 01823-283892 (e-mail [email protected]).