Recently I headed west to the small town of Hythe, England. You may remember my post featuring St. Leonard’s House of Bones awhile back which was also located in Hythe. This time I wanted to check out the Hythe Venetian Fete, a tradition this town has celebrated since 1890. It began as a way for the townspeople to congregate, and admire water floats in a procession along the town’s Royal Military Canal. Each float was illuminated, and set down the water in grand display. The local newspaper coined it as a “Venetian Fete” and they have stuck with it all these years later. Other than the fact that the parade takes place along the canal, the festival has nothing whatsoever to do with Venice. Just so you know.
The procession begins during the day; all the townspeople lining up along the canal with their families, picnicware, and glow-in-the-dark paraphernalia. Various clubs, churches, and local organizations put together the floats, and get judged on their use of lighting and originality. My favorites were the Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, and Dr. Who floats. Instead of tractors pulling the floats along (like you’d see in a parade in Texas) each one was connected to a motorboat or row boat.
I must admit, I have been very spoiled over the years. When I lived by Amsterdam, I got to see incredibly intricate water floats during events every year. The floats at the Hythe Venetian Fete didn’t blow me away, but that wasn’t the charm of the event. Even though I was a little disappointed with what I saw, it was a real experience. These are the type of events where you can really get to know a people, away from the flashy tourist sights and stereotypes they sell you around every corner in London. There was no showing off, it was all about coming together as a town and supporting one another. I like that.
Once the sky turned dark, an incredible firework show illuminated the sky. Fireworks can be boring, but these were super impressive. I love the pictures I got of them from behind the tree.
After the grand firework display, the event everyone came for began. The same floats that had floated by during the day started their second procession. This time they were bright and shining, floating down the canal covered in hundreds of fairy lights, lit up disco balls, and fluorescent paint under black lights. Hythe is far from a big city, but the small town magic was pretty special.
Although I probably won’t attend again when the Hythe Venetian Fete returns in 2015, I am glad I was able to take part in this local tradition. Admission prices were pretty steep if you have nothing invested into the event, running from £8-19 depending on your seat. I imagine it makes a hefty sum of money for the town, so it is a great way for local people to invest in their community during a bit of comradery. I found this video on Youtube, and although it is a couple years old, it gives you a great background on the event.
Header image thanks to Hythe Venetian Fete.