Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grassington Dickensian Festival 2011, 12th Day of UK Christmas

Easily the best Christmas fair we went to this year was the Grassington Dickensian Festival. At first, it seemed like it might not be so great. Expectations were lowered on our trip there.

The first problem was following the signs to the parking. They led us right through town and far out of town. We wound up at Swinden Quarry that seemed three or four miles from our destination. Parking was £6 per car, which included the free bus ride back and forth. If we had our druthers, we'd have parked in town and walked to the festival, just so we could leave when we wanted to. The second problem was cold, overcast weather that looked like rain would happen any minute. Shivering in the cold might be Dickensian but that wasn't the experience we were looking for.

The bus ride went quickly and the children were excited to be on mass transit. Not too many people were riding so we all had seats. The drop off was two blocks from the festival street. When we walked up, we discovered a very wonderful, festive display.

Not only were people in festive dress; also there were plenty of little braziers full of coal to keep warm.

A motley crew!

Street urchins on the early, uncrowded streets

Coal fires provides heat and plenty of smoke/atmosphere

We ducked into the local Church of England that was serving traditional snacks, which provided another opportunity to warm up and to enjoy a mince pie and tea.

Cookies and tea at a reasonable price!

Lucy tries to get the waitress's attention

We went back outside in time to see the opening parade led by the Barnoldswick Band.

We followed the band up the street a short way and discovered the Human Vegetable Machine. This old time entertainment cost only one pound for the chance to win five pounds. The game worked like a gigantic slot machine. Three ladies would start laughing and then shout "bah humbug!" and bring out a vegetable from under their stall. If all the vegetables match, you win! We never saw anyone win, except that the whole crowd was highly entertained.

Put a pound in the bucket and get a chance for five!

These women were highly animated when the bell rang. We all laughed along.

We saw lots of buskers on the street, playing instruments (one boy had spoons!) or singing songs. Tunes from Oliver! were popular along with lots of classical Christmas carols. Lucy was glad to give a little something to them.

Was Lucy putting money in or taking it out?

Lots of amazing shops lined the streets selling all sorts of wares, drinks, and foods. Christmas shopping could be a breeze here with the variety of shops, as long as you weren't shopping for someone you were with. Some things were less Dickensian than others.

Classic fare at the fayre!

Not so classic crepes; at least the guy had the right outfit on!

The streets filled up quickly and the local constables went to great heights to keep the order in town.

The crowds got bigger and bigger, not because of eating too many chestnuts and crepes.

At least we didn't have to worry about the long arm of the law!

Another common booth at the fair was a charity booth running a raffle which they called a tombola. Typically you would pay 50 pence or a pound to get one to three tickets. If you drew a number that ended in 5 or 0, you'd win a prize from the display. Sometimes the individual numbers (like 135 of 240) were linked to specific prizes. Other times the winner chose among what was available. Many booths had little candies for people who didn't win anything. We played at three or four of these booths without winning. Then we went back to the church where we had a snack and tried one last time. This time, both Jacob and Lucy won prizes!

The tin was full of chocolate!

We missed some of the other attractions. We didn't bring a letter for Santa's Post Box or stop in at Santa's Grotto. At the end of the day, Joseph leads Mary on a donkey from inn to inn along the streets looking for a place to stay, winding up at the nativity scene. This festival was so much fun, we are almost sure to go again in 2012. As it was, we headed for home after we became big winners. The bus ride was pleasantly swift and we finally rode up top on a double-decker bus. A good time was had by all.

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