A SUMMER fair with a 700-year history got underway again yesterday with a revamped format – but at least one old favourite was still firmly in place.
The popular sport of wench ducking has been retained at the new-look Alnwick Fair and yesterday’s opening day saw the first local maiden consigned to her watery punishment.
Costumed militiamen are back on duty to round up the ‘victims’ and escort them to the traditional ducking stool and pond in the Market Place, as the fair kicks off its 38th year.
The annual event has a heritage going back to the 1200s and was officially set up in 1969 as a medieval-style costumed extravaganza – but members of the organising committee have been making changes aimed at ensuring its future.
Two years ago the event was condensed from its original seven days to five and the traditional opening Sunday parade moved to become the grand finale. This year the Fair Queen contest has gone, along with some of the pageantry, with the fair re-branded as a showcase for local talent.
The idea of a costumed, historical fair has been replaced by an event involving schools and community groups in the town. It has been put back three weeks to avoid a clash with school exams. Yesterday’s opening featured performances in the Market Place and street entertainment. Performers throughout the five days until Sunday will include the Duchess’s High School choir.
Fair president Mabel Forsyth said: “We are the only fair that has a ducking stool so we decided it has to stay.”