Tea maidstone River Festival returned today after a two year hiatus due to Covid.
In what was described by the festival’s chairman, David Naghi, as “the most magnificent festival ever in its 40 year history” guests were welcomed with entertainment both on and off the River Medway.
It all started at midday when the Mayor set off a maroon to open the event – a large rocket used by the RNLI to signal when a lifeboat needed to be launched.
Live music, dance and drama entertained audiences from a stage at Lockmeadow, with additional entertainment centered around The Old Boat, the Thai Orchid restaurant and the Kentish Lady cruiser.
Entertainment came in the shape of the Mandy Ellen Dance School, Rock Paper Scissors, the Kent Academy of Musical Theater and the Stagecoach Bearsted Theater School.
Plus Martin Cleary, the Hazlitt Youth Theater Group, Center Arts, Atonic, Ellie-Hope Suzanne and Paris-Kay.
Along the length of the riverbank were community stalls, including some water-themed ones such as the RNLI and a turtle sanctuary from Staplehurst.
Children’s entertainment was centered around the Hermitage Millennium Amphitheater.
On the river, the big attraction was the raft race. A motley collection of crews attempted to navigate a 650m course on rafts of their own design.
They raced from the high-level railway bridge to the Archbishop’s Palace, in a bid to win the coveted trophy.
Each team paid an entry fee of a £50 donation to the Heart of Kent Hospice to take part.
Mr Naghi said: “Most rafts make it over the start line, not all of them reach the finish line, but everyone has a lovely time!”
This year’s entrants included Happy Ever Rafter! (from Barty House Nursing Home), the Malta Geezers, the Maidstone Sea Cadets and The Bacon Butty Brigade who came out victorious.
The River Festival raised money for two local charities: “The Young Lives Foundation and MADM (Making a Difference to Maidstone).
Mr Naghi said: “This is very much a community event for the people of Maidstone.
“It is run by volunteers – not by Maidstone council – and we very much hope everyone will come along and join in the fun.”
During the day the nearby All Saints Church welcomed visitors with tea and a chance to view the plaque of George Washington’s ancestor, Laurence Washington, featuring the Stars and Stripes motif that later became America’s flag.
And also the Maidstone Carriage Museum, opposite the church, made a rare opening, between 11am – 4pm.
The museum offers a fascinating insight into the old palace and its history and has one of the best collections of carriages in Europe.
Throughout the day, an historic Number 26 Maidstone Corporation bus gave rides between All Saints and the Gallagher Stadium.
The festival is set to end/ended with a fabulous firework display set off from the roof of Fremlin Walk at 10pm.
There is a £100 prize being offered to whoever takes the best photograph of the River Festival. Send your entries to clairey@maidstone riverfestival.com
Entries will be judged by the Mayor of Maidstone and the winner announced a week after the event.