IT’S all hands on deck in Stratford this weekend as the town’s award-winning River Festival returns for a tenth year.
The free family event returns tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, with pirate-inspired action also spreading across the town, thanks to the very first Pirates vs Mermaids event in Bell Court.
The Stratford River Festival is one of the region’s leading free festivals. Last year it brought a record 57,000 people to Stratford to join in with music, food, drink and a waterborne exhibition of boats on the town’s waterways.
Top-draw bands will entertain crowds on Riverside while there will be slightly more than grog and biscuits on offer thanks to an array of food and drink stalls – many local Stratford businesses.
On the riverside, live music will entertain on The Bandstand and Acoustic Stages including the Simon Kemp Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, dance group Folk Friendzy, the Ashby Big Band and Stratford Music Centre.
The festival will be opened by the Mayor of Stratford and a highlight will be an epic fireworks display at 10.30pm on Saturday night.
Throughout the weekend, families will be able to view a spectacular static narrowboat display as well as taking part in fun activities in the Family & Charity Zone which features an array of stands from organisations including Escape Arts, the Shakespeare Hospice and Stratford Town Trust.
A bustling craft market will offer everything from jewellery to gifts and homemade preserves from local businesses including For Something Different and Bright Ideas, while exhibitors on Riverside also include Hathaway Tea Rooms and Roly’s Fudge Pantry.
This year’s festival bars are run by The Encore, which is offering Pimm’s, wine, Champagne, spirits and cocktails, and The One Elm, which will have gallons of cider, lager and real ales to keep revellers refreshed.
Visitors can choose from an array of food, including stalls from local butcher Barry the Butcher, Carluccio’s, The One Elm and The Townhouse, plus much more.
The festival is organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) on behalf of 430 town centre shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses.
It has won multiple awards including the Pride of Stratford Tourism Initiative of the Year Award in both 2016 and 2018 and Stratford’s Best Festival by Stratford-upon-Avon Online in 2016 and 2017 – as voted by members of the public.
Stratforward BID director Joe Baconnet said: “We may be landlubbers here in Stratford, but every year we celebrate the water we have got with the award-winning River Festival. The festival always brings thousands of people to check out our great live music, food and drink, narrowboat display and family-friendly activities.
“Over the past decade the festival has grown each year, and 2018 is no exception. For the tenth year we’re making sure the party spreads through the town centre to make sure visitors get the chance to take in the businesses that fund this fabulous event, whether they’re independent shops, high street names or restaurants and bars.
“The inaugural Pirates vs. Mermaids event in Bell Court should make this year’s River Festival bigger than ever and we look forward to saying, ‘ahoy, me hearties’ to even more locals and visitors to our wonderful town on one of the busiest weekends of the year in Stratford.”
The Herald will also be there throughout the weekend, giving away freebies with every copy of the paper sold.
On Saturday drop by and say hello to Managing Director Richard Boyden or chat to editor Amanda Chalmers on Sunday. They would love to get your feedback on the paper or indeed hear about any local stories you may have.
Buy a copy of the Herald from our stand and claim your free exclusive preview copy of author Dave Matthews’ new book from The Wizard’s Thatch series, Elizabetta Bombay And The Dream Pirates, as well as a bottle of water and other goodies.
But don’t worry if you’ve already purchased your copy. Just come along and tell us you’ve bought the paper and we’ll reward you with the free items anyway to say thanks.
Look forward to seeing you there.