08:12AM, Thursday 12 August 2021
August Bank Holiday! Four whole days of Festival Fun. How far has the 'TRAD' come from the original little rally of like-minded souls with beautiful classic boats who gathered on Fawley Meadows over 40 years ago?
Now, thousands flock to the Meadows to relax and eat, drink, listen to great music and to admire the largest gathering of classic river craft in the world! These are joined by a flock of flag-festooned iconic 'Dunkirk' boats lovingly preserved and none looking as if they could have completed the momentous task they performed in the last war.
Boats are joined these days by examples of all forms of vintage transport: beautiful old cars, traction engines, a whole encampment of army vehicles, the much-loved amphibious vehicles that look so outrageous when 'swimming' and appear to shake themselves like ducks as they drive out of the water onto dry land. Owners love to offer rides to visitors cheeky enough to ask. Your first 'Amphib' journey can be quite terrifying!
Majoring at the TRAD this year is the National Transport Trust, an organisation as important to our engineering heritage as the National Trust is to our built heritage, but sadly not yet as well known. They give grants and awards for restoration of all forms of transport and work hard to encourage young people to get involved with engineering on all levels. They will be displaying both restored vehicles and some under restoration. Brooklands Museum is helping with this and will bring a different vehicle each day. Will Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang be with there? We hope so. Lady McAlpine has been trying to get her to the TRAD for 6 years now! Edd China will be on site recording the first of a series of television programmes on the projects the NTT has been or is involved in.
One past NTT award winner is Robert Morley who has restored a number of boats among which is a WW1 Motor Torpedo Boat that was RADIO CONTROLLED! - from the air (who knew?) and this boat will be out on the water when the planes that might have controlled it, the Bremont Great War Display Team based now at White Waltham, will fly over.
The Festival will be visited each day by the Memorial Flight Spitfires. On a smaller scale, seek out the endearing pedal planes made by the volunteers who run the Joystick charity for children. There will also of course be traditional fairground rides for children and the Denning Montessori school will offer a little respite and a secure place for any 'lost' children. There are always a few competitions for children with fun prizes.
The now well-established 'Family Dog Show' will be taking place each day from Saturday, entry is £2 per class in aid of the Ways and Means Trust and you can enter at the show, as many classes as you wish. There may be some surprise judges!
In addition to boats, planes, cars, trucks, amphibs, hovercraft and traction engines, this year there is a gathering of heavy horses and the vintage vehicles they pull. As this is their first year, they are unsure about offering rides around the site but will give talks on the horses and the vehicles.
Then, of course: Shopping! no Festival is complete without it these days. There is a whole street of antique shops, and lots of other stands offering everything from brownies (made by two girls aiming for a rowing Gold in the next Olympics) fudge and vintage clothes to serious boating kit.
When you need a break: you will find good street food, bars, and of course, the Crooked Billet Pub. Twice the size of the original at Stoke Row, with that same wonderful food, the full range of drink (including Henley Gin!) and brilliant, happy staff.
Or graze the food court with its mix of music on the Acoustic Stage.
'Shops' may close at 6.00 p.m. but the show goes on ’til 11.00 each night as the pub becomes a party! Local bands: The Covered play on Friday and Saturday, Night Train on Sunday and Led Zeppelin Project on Monday.
This year, the festival is offering evening tickets for £5 for those who want to come to dance, listen to the music, have dinner, or just enjoy the ambience of a drink or two by the river.
On Saturday there are illuminated parades on land and on water and even if you don’t want to dance the night away, it really is worth staying for dinner to watch these parades.
Obviously this year’s event will be different, because so many of the food stalls and traders who usually attend in July are already committed elsewhere for the Bank Holiday weekend. There are of course new suppliers and traders filling the gaps. One sad loss is the ferry that Hobbs always so kindly provide in July that they simply cannot provide over a Bank Holiday weekend. This may of course affect the number of visitors. Only time will tell.
DO remember that there are prizes each day for the most appropriately dressed visitor. The time range is enormous so dress up to match any of the vintage vehicles on display to be in with a chance of a prize.
The official Prize-giving for the various classes of boat and engines etc. has always been on Sunday afternoon and the organisers are concerned that holding it on Sunday afternoon this time will give the impression that the event is finished. It is most definitely not! Monday will be a day of relaxation for all the boat owners and the Judges, who really do not relax until the prizes are awarded.
The ultimate aim of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival is to make sufficient profit to be able to sponsor a boat-building apprentice and two boat-building academies will demonstrate the skills they teach.
This “dream” can only become reality if the event makes money. It is run entirely by volunteers but still it is reliant on sponsors such as Shanly Homes, Grundon, Hobbs and the Flying Scotsman Trust without whom, the show would not go on.
Please tell all your friends and contacts that this is a terrific event, well worth a day or two of anyone’s Bank Holiday Weekend.
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