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THE Melksham Food and River Festival broke records this month, with an estimated 18,000 people attending the two-day event in King George V Playing Fields.
The festival’s biggest ever attendance in its history has been attributed to the “post-pandemic effect”, which has left residents hungry (and thirsty) for something to do.
“It feels different this year,” said one local resident speaking to Melksham News at the festival. “You can almost feel the excitement in the air – everyone is so happy to be out and enjoying themselves.”
“The attendance caught us all by surprise,” said Adrienne Westbrook on behalf of the festival’s committee. “Melksham was clearly ready to go out and spend a weekend in the sunshine where they could just sit and relax, meet up with friends outdoors, and enjoy great music, drink, lovely food and lots of other activities,
“We are just thrilled with how it went. My estimate is that we had 10,000 people attend on the Saturday and 8,000 on the Sunday. That is the biggest attendance ever – and I think we can call that the ‘post-pandemic effect’ – people have been starved of things to do. It was a perfect weekend – everything came together, even the weather!”
At the town’s first large-scale post-pandemic event in over 17 months, the community enjoyed over 50 stalls with food and drinks on offer from all corners of the world; live music; dancing; cooking demonstrations; a raft race; boat trips on the River Avon; fairground rides; and demonstrations on the river from Wiltshire Youth Canoe Club, Phoenix Paddlesport and Wiltshire Search & Rescue.
And festival organisers have said that the stallholders, clubs, organisations, and charities in attendance have been thrilled with how the weekend went.
“Wiltshire Search & Rescue sold out of raffle tickets on the first day!” said festival chair Adrienne. “And the paddleboarding did incredibly well. In fact, all the river events were amazing. In the field, all the stalls were enticing – there was something for everyone. It was a really nice family weekend.”
“People have been so keen to stop and talk,” said one of the stallholders speaking to Melksham News. “It’s been a fantastic festival – there’s a real buzz about it.”
The festival’s traditional raft race was won by the River Mead Mermaids, representing River Mead School – their prize money will be donated towards the creation of an outdoor reading area for the school.
Other highlights included a special fly over from Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s helicopter, a visit from Frankie the canal horse, face painting, and stalls hosted by local groups including newcomers Proud Melksham and Melksham Goes Wild.