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Excited town is gearing up for its annual festival week

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Colourful bunting lines the town centre, the festival cake is being made, and Downham Market is looking forward to the biggest week of its year.With the annual celebrations set to take place from Sunday, a rallying call has been issued to make this year’s event ‘the festival of festivals’.In a message to the town’s people, the festival committee said: “Our committee has been working hard to bring you a fun-filled, interesting week.

The Carnival parade in a previous year. Picture: Michael Fysh

“The carnival offers you all a good time, free entertainment, a variety of stalls, food and drink choices, and lively arena events. A good day out is guaranteed.”There’s a crammed programme to enjoy and whether it’s cream teas, talks, the festival quiz, children’s entertainment, the swing orchestra or the visit from Sheringham Shantymen, there really is something for everyone.And that’s not forgetting the big carnival on the Howdale on Monday, which follows immediately after the parade.

A sunny Howdale packed with things to do. Picture: Ian Burt

Arena events include singing, dancing, a dog show and the much-anticipated Stuntworld International. The committee added: “Please join us and bring your friends and family. During the rest of the week, we have various events in the town hall – courtesy of the town council – so please book your tickets.“Please support us and our lovely town, let’s make visitors welcome and make this the ‘festival of festivals’.”Celebrations kick off on Sunday, followed by the big event – the town carnival – on Bank Holiday Monday.

The town crier, Ray Wales, ringing in last year’s Carnival parade. Picture: Ian Burt

Sunday, May 26 A French Cafe is being held from 10am to 2pm in the town hall on Sunday, organised by the town’s twinning club.King’s Lynn and District Astronomy Society will also be in the town hall with their telescopes. The traditional flag raising ceremony will be at 12.15pm, with town crier Ray Wales delivering the Festival Proclamation before the raising of the festival flag.A Songs of Praise is being held by Churches Together, also in the town hall, starting at 6.30pm.

Scarecrows on a float. Picture: Ian Burt

Bank Holiday Monday, May 27Bank Holiday Monday is Carnival Day, with the parade leaving Heygates at 12.15pm on a procession up Bridge Street, past the clock tower, and on to the Howdale green, with an expected arrival time of between 1.15pm and 1.30pm. Don’t miss this colourful spectacular!

Incredible BMX stunts lit up last year’s Arena events on the Howdale. Picture: Ian Burt

A range of arena events will be taking place on the Howdale, including Stuntworld International, The Black Eagles Group, and various dancing and singing groups.There is also a dog show on the Howdale, starting a little earlier at 11am. Registration is from 10am. The arena will be surrounded by all manner of stalls and refreshment kiosks, plus there’s a fun fair for the children to enjoy.

Legacy Dance performing on the Howdale. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, May 28• Children’s entertainment morning with Go Awesome in the town hall, 10am to noon. £3 per child. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. • Cream tea and talk by Discover Downham in the town hall on the history of the ‘gingerbread town’, from 2pm to 4pm, £5, booking essential on 01366 383615 or by emailing downhamfestival@yahoo.com• Festival quiz, town hall, doors open 7pm. Entry £5 per person in teams of four. Includes buffet. Booking essential on 01366 383615 or by emailing downhamfestival@yahoo.com

Cutting the festival cake at last year’s event. Picture: Ian Burt

Wednesday, May 29• Coffee morning and festival cake cutting ceremony, town hall, starts 10am. Cutting at 10.30am by town mayor, cake created by Cream Me Up Scotty. Performance by Singers Inspired Choir.• Downham Market Swing Orchestra, town hall, 7.30pm, with swing, jazz and ballroom. Refreshments. Tickets £8, book on 07980 955461.

A float themed on Mary Poppins. Picture: Ian Burt

Thursday, May 30• Children’s disco, town hall, 2pm to 4pm £2.50. Refreshments, sweets and glo-lights available to buy. Children must be accompanied by a parent of guardian.• Sheringham Shantymen, town hall, 7.30pm. Tickets £12 from No 8 The Old Bookshop in High Street or online from www.ticketsource.co.uk/downham-market-festival

Dancing at a previous year’s Carnival parade. Picture: Michael Fysh

Friday, May 31• Festival committee coffee morning, town hall, 10am to 2pm, with The Breakaways ukulele band and raffle.• Circus Gone MAD by Melody Allsorts of Downham, in the town hall, 7.30pm, with a night of circus-themed entertainment, comical acts and songs, including from famous musicals and chart hits. Tickets £12 from No 8 The Old Bookshop or online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/downham-market-festival

A Wizard of Oz themed float from the festival parade in 2019. Picture: Matthew Usher

Saturday, June 1• Dementia coffee morning, town hall, 10am to 1pm, with money raised for the Dementia Cafe.• Festival Treasure Hunt for children, 10am to 1pm. Collect a checklist from the town hall, clues hidden in shops around the town centre. Prizes for all children taking part.• Festival Bingo, town hall, doors 6.45pm, eyes down 7.30pm. Prizes to be won.

A winning pooch and owner in 2022. Picture: Ian Burt
Children’s entertainer Crazy Bananas led the parade through town in 2023. Picture: Ian Burt
A high school band performing on one of last year’s parade floats. Picture: Ian Burt
Firefighters joined the parade last year. Picture: Ian Burt

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