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Hatherleigh Carnival Index page
HATHERLEIGH CARNIVAL OVERVIEW
Hatherleigh Carnival is a unique Devon event. Flaming torches and Tar Barrels accompany floats and fancy dress contestants, to create a unique annual experience for the thousands of spectators who come from all over Devon.
Hatherleigh Carnival used to be held on the Wednesday nearest November 5th, betraying some of its origins. Nowadays it is held on the second Saturday in November. It starts at 8pm on Friday evening when the kids of the town pull the two sets of Tar Barrels up Market Street to the top of the town, where they remain overnight.
The Hatherleigh Carnival Jazz Band and numerous Guisers accompany the pulls and there is much merriment and laughter as something - or someone - from the previous months is parodied for foul play of one sort or another. Hatherleigh folks then party the night away. If you have the stamina to join in we can guarantee some fun will be had.
At 5am, the first set of Tar Barrels is lit and pulled through the Town at a sprint to Hatherleigh Market, where a Bonfire is set and folks chat for a while. Shops in the Town then uncover their windows to display their special Carnival decorations, ranging from fun to historical themes to topical interest. During the morning these windows are judged.
A Town Criers' contest takes place in the Square at about midday, immediately after the Hunt meets outside the George Hotel for a glass of sherry.
At 1pm folks assemble at the top of town for the childrens' afternoon Procession which ends in the Market with the crowning of the Queen, Prince and Princess. All then adjourn to the Market Hall where the Fancy Dress contest is judged.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Tar Barrel Committee is dipping its 52 torches (one for each week of the year) for a final time and putting the finishing touches to the huge frame of 12 torches (one for every month in the year) which leads the evening procession.
At 6pm, floats assemble in the Market in readiness for judging and the evening procession. Hatherleigh Carnival is famous to its crepe paper floats, which are carefully designed and made over previous weeks. The crepe paper is finely cut into single strips of 'grass' which are glued one by one onto the base of the float to create the design. The process involves hundreds of pieces of paper and perhaps 1,000,000 cuts for each float. This takes many hours of secret work ... a figure that does not include the mechanics, electronics and other engineering required.
The Hatherleigh floats are joined by many others from around the area, who like to take part in what Hathertonians believe is the best Carnival in Devon.
The procession leaves the Market about 7pm led by the Hatherleligh Silver Band and passes through the town watched by thousands of people who have come from all over Devon. Floats stop at the top of Market Street where the Torches and Torch Frame join in to lead the parade one more time around the Town.
Finally, at about 9.30pm, a hand bell signals the second set of Tar Barrels is about to roll! This pull is much more spectacular than the morning one because it takes place in the midst of thousands of people. Children run after the Barrels and folk follow them down to the Market where another big bonfire ensues.
Most of Hatherleigh Carnival involves the Town only. Only on Saturday Evening do 'outsiders' arrive to watch in large numbers. That is not to say that you can't join in, it's just that the Town holds the Carnival mainly for itself. Outsiders are welcome if they appreciate old traditions and want to protect them. We'll leave you to decide what it all means. Read more here
If you really like Carnivals, come for the complete weekend and watch something really special. You'll not see anything like it anywhere else ... but make your arrangements early or you'll have to drive a long way on the night.
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