The History of the Festival
The earliest records actually in possession of the committee at present date back to March 1947, when the constitutional rules were adopted by the AGM in the Garstang Institute. The next entry in the minute book is dated 4th April 1949 and it details the events to take place that year. The programme contains many of the events we still practice today. They had a festival Queen, a fancy dress parade, the football competition and the Morris Dancers. The parade was led by Garstang’s own silver band, accompanied by a band from Caldervale. However the procession no longer meets on the Royal Oak Field as it did in 1949.
Although the official records pre 1947, no longer exist because of a fire in which they were destroyed, it is possible to trace the festival back to 1871. The Children’s Festival originates from the Whitsun walks which took place in many towns and villages. Unfortunately there is no official record of that festival day in 1871; reference to that event was made in a newspaper article dated 21st May 1921. in 1921 the crowds were outnumbered by the 5th Loyal Lancashire Band. Each child taking part was given a threepenny bit. The football match that year was won by the team from Garstang Grammar School who defeated Churchtown in the final. As well as the usual entries for the fancy dress there were also two classes for the best decorated cycles.
Another interesting report can be found in a 1934 newspaper article. That year over 300 children took part in the festival. In the sports that took place in the afternoon the egg and spoon race had to be cancelled due to the fact that eggs were scarce and there were no spoons. The Loch Ness monster was part of the parade and the winner of the boys fancy dress was Hitler! The whole day was rounded off by a state ball in the Liberal Club.
It is obvious from reading the old newspapers that as much enjoyment was gained by all the people taking part over 70 years ago as by the children and adults involved in the festivals of more recent years. Hopefully this very important tradition for which Garstang is renowned will continue to give pleasure to many generations of children in the future.
from the 1993 Festival Programme