Hatherleigh's Carnival Day starts with the first run of blazing tar barrels through the streets at 5 in the morning. You would be surprised how many people waken - or perhaps stay up - to see this spectacular event. During the morning the Carnival President and previous year's disco carnival queen judge the decorated shop windows.
The children's afternoon procession is led by the Town's Silver Band; then the Prince & Princess float and the float of the disco carnival queen, followed by the children who have dressed in imaginative costumes. This procession starts at the top of the Town and proceeds to the Market where the children are judged and the Carnival Royalty are crowned by the President of the Carnival Committee.
The evening procession is very dramatically led by flaming torches and the Silver Band. The amazingly decorated floats travel slowly around the Town allowing spectators to appreciate their themes and craftsmanship. Many floats are covered with crepe paper, but materials and paint are also used. The most colorful float is of course the one of the disco carnival queen. The procession is enhanced by the various costumed walking guys (collectors) and the different bands - brass, samba, pipe and majorette.There is a final run of tar barrels after the procession, ending in a bonfire at the Market.
Most of the traditions have remained in one form or another. The Carnival was originally called The Hatherleigh & Meeth Hospital Association Carnival at the turn of the 20th Century. Its aim was to raise money to pay for residents' hospital care. Today, profits are still donated to local charities. Eventually the Carnival was combined with the Town's Guy Fawkes celebrations and was held on the first Wednesday in November. Before the advent of Guy Fawkes and dating back to pagan times, it is believed there were fire celebrations, including the rumors that effigies of townsfolk who had done wrong in the previous year were burnt.
In latter years the day of the Carnival had to be moved to a more work/school friendly Saturday and that is about the only change to this wonderful, traditional celebration.
This year the committee has held an exhibition of past Carnival Photographs and memorabilia, with the added attractions of a Punch & Judy Show and Hatherleigh Silver Band, a Dance for Past Kings, traditional election of the Disco Carnival Queen & The Teenage Princess selection disco party with music by Harmony Dance Band, a couple of workshops at the Primary School, an Edwardian Fancy dress Parade & Fete and of course the Royalty Disco in September. As well as all the events the committee, whilst celebrating the past 100 years, have also joined the 21st century with the new range of fleeces, sweatshirts, T-Shirts and caps which all have the tar barrel logo and are very reasonably priced.
The Carnival was awarded a National Lottery grant to help cover the cost of the centenary celebrations and to enable the committee to purchase 2-way radios which will help the safe stewarding of the carnival. Finally Commemorative Carnival programs are also available and they are free!