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Somerset’s famous carnivals are back in full swing following many cancellations in 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some carnivals have already held events in Sidmouth, Wellington and Frome but many more will be hitting towns in October before the world famous ‘Guy Fawkes’ circuits in November. The first recorded date of the famous carnival dates back to as early as the late 1600’s.
In some parts of the country, the tradition of carnivals held during the winter months is non-existent – but that’s definitely not the case down in Somerset.
The county’s hugely popular winter carnivals are some of the finest displays of free winter entertainment you’ll see just about anywhere, and this year’s processions are set to be as glitzy and colourful as ever.
Huge procession floats take to the streets of towns across the county, featuring exotic performers, massive light shows and the most extravagant fancy dress imaginable.
The processions of illuminated floats are part of an ancient tradition, which stretches back as far as the 1600’s when many parts of Somerset commemorated the Gunpowder plot. Grand firework displays and street entertainment adds to the sense of fiesta and fun.
Here is the list of carnivals in East Devon and Somerset that have been confirmed:
East Devon Carnival dates
Honiton – 22nd Oct
Ottery St. Mary – 29th Oct
Honiton Christmas Carnival – 3rd Dec
Plus, for the first time, Exeter is hosting a Christmas Carnival on Saturday 26 November, which will feature an illuminated parade.
Wiltshire Carnival dates
Trowbridge – 22nd Oct
Salisbury – 21st Oct
Warminster – 29th Oct
Strawberryfield Park is a short distance from many of these carnival locations and a perfect holiday location to witness the world famous UK Carnival.
Somerset Carnival dates
Bridgwater – 5th Nov
Highbridge & Burnham-on-Sea – 7th Nov
North Petherton – 9th Nov
Midsomer Norton – – 11th Nov
Weston-super-Mare – 11th Nov
Shepton Mallet – 13th Nov
Wells – 15th Nov
Glastonbury – 16th Nov
Bridgwater is the daddy of them all. One of the world’s largest illuminated Winter carnival processions, and more than two hours long, this is the only carnival to be followed by the old tradition of ‘squibbing’, where the squibbers hold exploding fireworks on long poles as part of the procession.
The Bridgwater Carnival parade starts at 7pm (Saturday, November 4).
Park & Ride
Park and Ride schemes are again in operation at Bridgwater this year thanks to The Buses of Somerset.
The service will operate from 2pm on carnival day with parking located just off junction 23 of the M5 (British Car Auctions) – TA6 4TN, J24 M5 (Junction 24 Ltd) – TA6 6DF, and from 11am at the Morrisons Distribution Centre (use M5 J23 – TA6 4AT).
Park and Ride charges are £5 per car plus £1 per adult travelling. You should find this much easier than looking for town centre car parks; buses will run from the site entrance to the town centre, returning after the procession and picking you up from the position you were dropped off.
This service will be available from 2pm , with the first bus leaving when full. The buses will run a regular service both ways until 11.30pm, when the last bus leaves the pick up point as shown on the map. These sites will be signposted from the M5 junction.
This will be the second Somerset carnival of the year and it takes place on Monday November 6.
Carts will start to arrive in Burnham-on-Sea in the small hours of Sunday morning and park up on Queens Drive and Frank Foley Parkway – this is an ideal opportunity for the clubs to make those all important tweaks to their design that might have been needed at Bridgwater.
Weston’s annual carnival is always impressive, but its exposed location can make it a tad chilly if the weather takes a turn for the worse. This year it’s taking place on Friday November 10, and will parade through the town centre of Weston-super-Mare where residents fill the streets and watch from their homes on the route and along the famous promenade beach.
North Petherton celebrates its 68th year of Carnival in 2017 and it will take place on November 11.
This year, the town is the fourth stop on the Guy Fawkes carnival circuit, with many large and colourful floats taking part.
With the circuit now in full swing, you can head down to Shepton Mallet to check out the town’s carnival offering on Wednesday November 15. Expect to see carts of up to 100ft in length and 16ft in height, with 20-30,000 light bulbs.
Wells Carnival will be on Friday November 17 and is a spectacle not to be missed.
The huge floats make their way slowly through the medieval streets of Wells, intertwined with street performers dressed in highly inventive and stunning costumes.
The blaze of colourful lights, music, dancing and beautifully tailored costumes on these floats creates a unique and exciting atmosphere in the city’s streets – and there is always the added excitement of wondering if they will make it round the corner of Sadler Street and into the High Street.
Glastonbury’s carnival is the final show of the year, and this year it will take place on November 18. The town has a fierce rivalry with Bridgwater’s event and often claims its show is the biggest on the circuit.
Glastonbury is also the home of Carnival Park, where many of the carts are built, which partly explains the passion with which the town embraces the event.