St Leonards set for Frost Fair

29/11/14- St Leonards Frost Fair and Winter Market.  Faith Brooker from Rattlebag
29/11/14- St Leonards Frost Fair and Winter Market. Faith Brooker from Rattlebag

For the last three years, on the last Saturday of November, in the heart of St Leonards, local residents have enjoyed a proud new addition to our coastal winter season: the Frost Fair, which revives a grand European tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages.

The St Leonards Frost Fair remains true to its roots, anchored around a festive street market that takes over a car-free Kings Road, delivering the finest of foods and a dazzling array of distinctive products from independent makers and sellers.

As Anton Burton, market manager, puts it: “The 40 plus street traders add to the ever more enticing offer from our established shop keepers and restaurateurs in a location that is attracting increasing attention as a magnet for specialist shopping and as a meeting place for all members of our vibrant community.”

The market will be supported by live performances from artists and minstrels, street corner amusements and, for the first time, axe throwing courtesy of 1066 target sports who will be making over disused land at the end of Kings Road as an arena.

As the day wears on, expect excitement to mount as families arrive to witness the centrepiece of the day, at 2.30pm , a professionally choreographed and costumed parade, which follows a generous circuit taking in London Road, Grand Parade, the seafront, Warrior Square Gardens and Western Road before finally splitting in two as it triumphantly processes through the heart of the market on Kings Road.

With over 200 participants, drum troupes, circus artists and characters including Jack Frost, the Snow Queen in her winter coach and a host of figures from literature, mythology and folklore, the parade is larger than ever, building on the huge interest and acclaim from previous years to deliver what we like to think of as the best dressed and most magical winter pageant in the whole of the county. In a new twist for 2015, organisers have extended the programme for the day to include a ‘turning on’ ceremony.

This follows the recent success of the fair’s promoter, the St Leonards Town Team, at a prestigious national festive lighting competition, where they scooped the first prize of £10,000 pounds worth of festive lighting. This will see the main streets of St Leonards lit up with a dazzling array of street illuminations, reinstating a reputation the town enjoyed from Edwardian times until the 1980s as a major centre of Christmas lighting.

The lights will formally be turned on at 5pm, and, as part of their fundraising efforts to help cover the cost of installing the lights, the Town Team have set up a prize draw called Frost Finger that will see a member of the public flick the switch. With entry at just £1, it is an affordable way to support the day, entry forms are available online and in a wide range of local stores and public houses.

Running from 10am until early evening of Saturday, November 28, the St Leonards Frost Fair is the perfect family day out in the busy build-up to Christmas. Expect something very special and different, just like St Leonards itself.

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