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Weymouth Carnival Update

Carnival-stall

Weymouth Carnival will return in style


Weymouth Carnival promises to be bigger and better than ever when it hits the seafront again in the summer. Having taken a couple of years off, the Carnival looks set to be a cracker on its return on 13-15 August 2021 - with the grand procession on the Sunday.

For decades, thousands of people have booked their annual seaside holiday to coincide with the spectacle of Weymouth Carnival. The annual event is often opened with the dramatic arrival of the Red Arrows, with the jets bursting across the town rooftops to deliver their breathtaking display over the blue waters of Weymouth Bay.

Carnival itself is a lively, colourful display of costumes and floats, that parades along the curve of the Esplanade. Marching bands, baton-twirling majorettes, military re-enactors and many more come together for the early evening extravaganza. It's been a tradition for local businesses and community groups to decorate and populate brightly coloured floats.

If you're planning a holiday to the Weymouth area in the summer, it's worth considering whether you want to be here for Carnival week.


So much variety in Weymouth Carnival 

There's been so much to see at Carnival over the years. In addition to the Red Arrows, the sky has been busy with other aerial displays including hot air balloons, wing-walkers, parachutists from the RAF Falcons and Royal Marines, and fly pasts by Spitfires and the Lancaster bomber of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The entertainment at ground level has been even more varied. The Red Barrows were a popular sight, attempting to replicate the close-formation of the RAF professionals, with the aid of wheelbarrows. Years ago Whiteheads, once a major local employer, would show off some of the torpedoes they were developing.

There have been Carnival queens, and sometimes kings, barrel-rolling, displays by search and rescue teams and the RNLI, water skiing demonstrations, fun runs, prize draws, trolley races and, at the end of it all, a firework display and the bright lights of the funfair.

In days gone by, Weymouth Carnival was an all-day event, traditionally held on a weekday in the middle of August. Old programmes show a packed schedule of activities and events, starting mid-morning and running on almost to midnight.


Weymouth Carnival has been going for how long?

Curiously, for an event that's so popular, drawing crowds of up to 70,000 people, it's not easy to discover when Weymouth Carnival began. Old photos suggest it goes back to the 1930s, perhaps even the 1920s, and who knows whether it has deeper roots than that.

Some old Carnival programmes survive from years ago, to remind us of what went on back then. Events they list include: tug of war contests (separate contests for men and women), fancy dress displays, search light displays (after dark, of course), sand castle competitions, and a few speeches by local dignitaries.


Tourists love the Weymouth Carnival spectacle

Over the years many towns have lost their fairs and carnivals because they don't always fit in well with modern life. These big community events take time and effort to plan and deliver, and they rely heavily on volunteers. They're also increasingly expensive to organise, meaning sponsorship and donations are required.

Weymouth Carnival has been a survivor, keeping going well into this century. One reason for that is the appeal to tourists. Thousands of people take their summer break in Weymouth, with many coming back year after year to enjoy the fabulous beach, watersports and the varied scenery. The local people who organise Carnival welcome the holiday crowds, and want to help make their time in the town extra special.

The Carnival isn't the only event laid on to entertain both locals and visitors. When Weymouth had a larger fishing fleet there was an annual trawler race. Once the vessels were decorated for the day, it looked very much like the Carnival but on the water.

The harbour water also hosts another, increasingly popular event, which takes place on Christmas Day. Hundreds of people line up to swim from one side to the other, cheered on by the hundreds more who choose to stay warm and dry. Again, there's a carnival atmosphere, with a good number of the swimmers choosing to make the crossing in fancy dress.


The future of Weymouth Carnival

The Carnival took a break in 2019 but plans are firmly in place to bring it back in 2021, with what is now a three-day event over a weekend - dates are 13-15 August 2021. We're all looking forward to what Carnival will look like on its return!

One thing is for certain - if you're on holiday in the Weymouth area during Carnival in 2021, you won't want to miss it!

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