Image Credit: Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by Allison Symes
This year’s Extravaganza was on Sunday 17th September and, despite a cloudy start, the sun finally emerged during the afternoon, which in itself seemed to bring out more visitors.
I was at the writers’ stand with Brenda Sedgwick, Karen Stephen, Catherine Griffin, Maggie Farran and Sally Howard. Many thanks to all who popped by to see us to buy books, talk about creative writing and so on. It was good to see you and share information about writing classes, the Hampshire Writers’ Society and so on.
One huge advantage of a team event like this is the Extravaganza is not something any one author would do alone. Not only have you to set everything up and take it down again, there are insurance costs and “space hire” to deal with. It does, however, make a great deal of sense if a small group share these costs and support each other.
It also meant a wide range of books on our stand ranging from my flash fiction (From Light to Dark and Back Again) to Richard Hardie’s YA fantasy/time travel novels (Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords) to Brenda Sedgwick’s romantic comedy (Marriage, A Journey and a Dog) to short stories set in Chandler’s Ford (Secret Lives and More Secret Lives of Chandler’s Ford) written by Karen, Catherine, Sally and Maggie.
It was nice to see people pleasantly surprised there were so many local writers banding together to support one another. So that was a word that needed to be spread! I hope to write a separate post about the writers’ stand (and flag up our Book Fair at the end of October) but this is a general overview of the rest of the Extravaganza.
I was glad to see the Extravaganza back. I thought visitor numbers were down on last time and don’t know whether that was due to people not realising it was back, the grey start to the afternoon or both. I was glad visitor numbers picked up once the weather improved and it seemed to me a good time was had by all.
I am hard pressed to say whether it was the adults or the kids that were most interested in the fire engine. Close run thing I think. Just how many adults did dream of being firemen when they were growing up? Judging by the queues to look at the engine, quite a few!
The train that took kids for rides around the Recreation Ground also went down well, as did the donkey rides at the other end of the park (towards Hursley Road). There was a mini-farm (Millers Ark) near the Scout Hut featuring goats, hens (some with very beautiful feathers) and “mini” pigs. People were allowed to stroke the animals (though encouraged to wash their hands in the Scout Hut afterwards. I don’t know if this is just me but isn’t that just a great comment on the British character: look, touch even, but now go and wash your hands!).
There were the usual attractions of the bungee jumps, bouncy castle, ferris wheel and inflatable go-kart track, all of which I was very happy to leave to those much younger than me. The Face Painting tent amused me with its menu of options as you could be made up to look like anything from a tiger to a monster to a mermaid to a scary skull. The tea and cake stall did well (from my experience of church fetes, it is one of those stalls that can’t fail!) and there was a burger stand, two ice-cream vans (including Marucci, who visited my late in-laws’ road for decades) and a curry and samosa bar.
One Community were next door to the writers’ stand advertising what they do (in particular with regard to Eastleigh Museum. Do visit the Museum if you have not done so. There is a lot packed into it and it has a nice little cafe too).
The Chameleon Theatre Group and Thornden Hall were both giving out leaflets about forthcoming productions and I hope to resume visiting both more regularly over the next few months.
Thornden Hall told me they are now linked to the National Opera (as well as having links to the Royal Opera), meaning as well as National Theatre Live, they can now have National Opera Live, which I think is a great idea.
I’m looking forward to seeing The Chameleons’ spoof Murdered to Death later in October. (A sure sign of a spoof is deliberate tautology in the title!).
The sweet and confectionery stall also did a good trade throughout the afternoon and many thanks go to Mike Sedgwick for supplying us writers with fudge. Energy boosts are always welcome though it probably helped none of us are diabetic!
By the end of the afternoon, there were several dogs who were proudly wearing rosettes for winning various categories (so well done to them and to their owners). Several of the dogs also enjoyed having a good sniff around the Nightingale Pets stand with their displays of dog treats, toys etc out for all to see.
I did wonder if I would see some serious consumer testing of the dog biscuits but it didn’t happen. Mabel, even at 13, would have had no trouble getting her teeth into the dog snacks that would have seemed to her to just be waiting there for her to do precisely that! So, as you will guess from that, I would not enter her in the Most Obedient Dog category. I think she’d have a good shot at the Dog Judge Would Most like to Take Home or Prettiest Eyes categories though.
I didn’t get to see the Ferret racing though I would have thought that would have been a lively event! (I wonder how many of our usual squirrels stayed well away from the Recreation Ground while that event was on? I strongly suspect had any turned up, that would have been when there was some real Ferret racing!).
I did get to see the Birds of Prey display and was most impressed with the beautiful white gerfalcon. I have seen sparrowhawks flying above Hiltingbury (I once saw one having a pigeon for lunch at Hook Road!) but to see one close up gave me a good chance to admire its lovely colouring. They are a handsome bird (though I doubt if your average pigeon would appreciate that). The owls were lovely and it was good to see the flying display. The accuracy of the owls was impressive.
The nice thing about being at the writers’ stand was, when we weren’t busy, we had a good view of most of the show from where we were. We had a good view of the Romsey Ukelele Band (who were very good) and later saw the Winchester Morris Men. The circus tent was also popular as were the juggling and fire clubs display in the main arena.
Well done to all who worked so hard at organising the Extravaganza. An even bigger well done to the fact the Recreation Ground was spotless by the end of the afternoon. I very much hope the event is back again next year. I remain convinced the break last year probably didn’t help (you do get used to annual events) but hope the Extravaganza can now keep running continually and go from strength to strength. I think it deserves to. It is nice to have an event which caters for all ages.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.