If you go down to the town today...

PUBLISHED: 13:09 23 January 2006 | UPDATED: 21:37 28 May 2010

Straw Bears at the head of the procession

Straw Bears at the head of the procession

CROWDS packed into Whittlesey over the weekend to enjoy the sights and sounds of the ancient Straw Bear Festival. Streets were lined with residents and visitors witnessing the spectacle revived by the Whittlesea Society in 1980. While the origins of the f

What a song and dance

CROWDS packed into Whittlesey over the weekend to enjoy the sights and sounds of the ancient Straw Bear Festival.Streets were lined with residents and visitors witnessing the spectacle revived by the Whittlesea Society in 1980.While the origins of the festival are unclear, it was the custom on the Tuesday following Plough Monday to dress a male resident as a straw bear. He was taken around the town to entertain and was rewarded with beer, tobacco and beef.Gradually the tradition declined - the last sighting of the bear was in 1909 when a police inspector described the event as nothing more than cadging.Friday night was folk night at the town's Ivy Leaf Club when enthusiasts went along to hear music from Triality and The Mrs Ackroyd Band.Highlight of the weekend, the straw bear procession, set off from the club at 10.30am on Saturday and finished at about 3.30pm after visiting a number of pubs.Following the bear was a winding procession of musicians, performers and dancers. Molly, Morris, Clog and Sword dancing proved a big hit with the crowds.Saturday's festivities continued with a barn dance at the Sir Harry Smith Community College with The Bursledon Village Band and caller Chris Pitt.McCains Club hosted a cajun dance with the Hazel Scott Playboys, a band specialising in the cajun music of Louisiana.After the revelry of the previous day there were still plenty of spectators on Sunday at the community college for the burning of the bear.The burning began with a music and dance session when dancers from Saturday were joined by local dance sides Wype Doles Longsword and Washlanders Molly.The bear was burned to mark the end of this year's festival with organisers already planning the 28th festival.

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