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Straw Bear Festival kicks off in spectacular fashion in Whittlesea

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Straw Bear Festival kicks off in spectacular fashion in Whittlesea

The annual Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival kicked off in spectacular fashion on Saturday as the famous parade made its return to the streets of Cambridgeshire.

The sun shone over musicians and dancers in the village of Whittlesea as the annual event took place, with the focal point being the Straw Bear itself who walked in the procession accompanied by attendant keepers.

Festival-goers could be seen taking photos with the star of the show, who posed for selfies and waved at the crowds of people lining the roads.

Traditional Red Leicester Morris dancers, donning feather hats and wearing red face paint, played instruments and performed while Pig Dyke molly dancers took their face paint to another level, sporting dramatic black and white detail as they took to the streets.

The custom of parading the Straw Bear through the village appears to date back to the 1880s, but the exact date of its inception is unknown.

In the village, it was tradition that on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the first Monday after Twelfth Night) one person would dress in straw and be called the Straw Bear.

The custom was revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society after being stopped by the local constabulary in 1909, which forbid Straw Bears as a form of cadging, and for the first time in 70 years, a Straw Bear was seen on the streets accompanied by a procession of performers.

The annual procession now contains more than 250 dancers and musicians, who take part in traditional performances while crowds gather to catch a glimpse of the famous Straw Bear.

Saturday marks Straw Bear Day with a collection of events to celebrate the tradition alongside the colourful parade, such as an exhibition, dance spots and story-telling sessions.

The festival concludes on Sunday where an effigy of the Straw Bear will be burnt, leaving the way open for a new bear to be created in the following year’s harvest.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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