Stratford Gears Up For Bumper Festival Weekend
Stratford is gearing up for a bumper weekend with thousands expected to descend on the town for the eighth annual River Festival taking place on Saturday and Sunday.
With just days to go hotels and guest houses are reporting huge levels of bookings. Food and drink outlets are stocking shelves to be ready for the onslaught of picnickers heading to the Recreation Ground for a two-day packed programme of fun-filled family entertainment. And dozens of local shops, pubs and restaurants who are running stalls at the award-winning event are preparing for the crowds. Nobody will have to worry about being hungry or thirsty, with thousands of gallons of drink and tonnes of food on standby.
Stratford pub The One Elm won the tender to run the cider and lager tent, the Pimm’s and prosecco tent and the ale tent. And after the record-breaking number of visitors last year lite rally drank the bars dry, general manager Mat Faulkner said there’s no chance of that happening this year.
“We’ve ordered something like 12,000 pints of ale,” he said. “We’ve got 46 11-gallon containers of lager, 30 11-gallons of cider, 15 11-gallon containers of draught Pimm’s, and 15 barrels of fruit cider. We’ve also got 2,000 bottles of Prosecco and 3,500 pieces of meat for the barbecue.”
The One Elm, owned by Peach Pubs, has been involved in previous River Festivals, including last year when Mr Faulkner was left gobsmacked by how much beer they sold.
“We were completely overwhelmed. We thought we’d ordered in enough beer to last through to Sunday night with maybe some to take back with us. We sold out of the beer on the Saturday night by 7pm.
“I remember we had one ale left on the rack and there was a queue that reached all the way round the beer and lager tent. There was the last guy and he ordered three beers - I poured two-and-a-half and then it ran out. I literally had to tip the barrel up for him to get the very last drop out to make it up to the third point. I’ll take that moment to the grave with me, it was brilliant.”
And hungry visitors will have plenty of choices including a barbecue from long-running town business Barry the Butcher, whose owner has come up with a novel idea to make sure his stall doesn’t run out of hotdogs. Adam Lucock is preparing a thousand sausages for each day of the festival and only has room in his cool boxes for 150 at a time, so has had to come up with a cunning plan to get the food from his fridges in Chapel Street to the stall on Waterside - take to the water!
“I thought, how am I going to get them from my fridge on Chapel Street?” he said. “And jokingly I thought I can use the chain ferry, but actually it is probably going to be the best way. It’s pointless trying to get the our van through town, so we have to find other ways and as many of my loyal customers know we do like a challenge."
Since it was established the Stratford River Festival has become one of the region’s leading free festivals. Last year’s event, which brought a record-breaking 60,000 revellers into Stratford, scooped the Tourism Initiative of the Year Award 2016 in the Touch FM Pride of Stratford Awards.
This year’s festival will see up to 100 narrow boats moor up along the banks of the Avon for the weekend. Another highlight will be the maiden voyage of a unique cardboard gondola, made specially for the festival by renowned ‘cardboard’ artist Will Alexander who will take to the helm before he takes his creation to Venice.
Visitors will be able to browse nearly 100 charity, craft and food and drinks stalls and be entertained by world-class acts on two stages, as well as a fantastic firework display at 10.15pm on the Saturday. Bands will include six-piece party band Mister Shakes, featuring Brian Ferry’s sax player, who will headline on the Saturday and the event will close on the Sunday with one of the UK’s leading Glenn Miller tribute groups, the Ashby Big Band.