Torrington May Fair
May Fair in Great Torrington dates back to the 16th century and takes place on the first Thursday in May. It's a festival that marks the coming of summer and involves the whole community.
The day is given over to celebrations, with crowds gathering early in the town square to watch a series of events and entertainments, culminating in traditional maypole dancing and the ceremonial crowning of the May Queen, all accompanied by music from the town's own Silver Band.
The funfair visits the town for May Fair week, and on the Saturday following the crowning there's a carnival procession through the town, with prizes for the best floats and walking groups - many of whom have spent the whole year planning their display.
The carnival has its own queen, elected by pupils at Great Torrington School, and carnival queens and marching bands from neighbouring towns are also invited to join the procession.
May Fair week is a time of celebration for Great Torrington; the town is decked in bunting and decorated with gorse sprays for the occasion, and the town centre shops feature special window displays, competing for the coveted 'Best Dressed Window' award. It's a great time to visit the town and soak up the carnival atmosphere.
How Bluecoat is involved
Bluecoat C of E Primary School is instrumental in the May Fair celebrations with children from across the school playing their part. May Fair fever comes early in the school in January when children in Year 6 are invited to put themselves forward for the roles of May Queen and Heralds and girls in Year 3 for the roles of Attendants.
Voting then takes place across the school for the Year 6 girls that wish to be May Queen. The votes are verified by the Mayor and the girl with the most votes becomes May Queen, and the runner up becomes her Crowner. The Year 6 boys that wish to Herald are paired up by height and then one pair is drawn from a hat. Similarly the girls in Year 3 that wish to be Attendants are paired up by height and four pairs are drawn. All of the selected children form the May Fair Entourage.
Children in Reception and Year 1 kick off the May Fair proceedings with a short service in the town square where they sing songs specially rehearsed for the occasion. Children in Year 2 dance the Floral Dance and then form the Guard of Honour for the grand entrance of the Entourage. It is at this point that the specially designed outfits that the Entourage are wearing reveals the theme for the day, having been chosen by the Mayor's Consort earlier in the year.
Children in Years 3 and 4 take part in the country dancing and Years 5 and 6 dance the Maypole.
All of this takes months of rehearsals and meticulous planning. A May Fair committee meets regularly to ensure that the day runs smoothly.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, the community missed out on the full May Fair celebrations for the second year running. Great disappointment was felt across the school and the town.
However, the children have still been able to have the opportunity to take part in some of the dances and we share the Year 6 Maypole dancing and Year 4 Country Dancing here with you now. We hope you enjoy them.