In 1901 Yarmouth Regatta, as it was then advertised, was already being described as “time-honoured”. It began primarily as a regatta for sailing boats such as the Solent Sea Birds and included races off The Common for four-oared coastguard galleys from Beaulieu, Lymington, Yarmouth and Cowes. There were also races for pair-oared boys and swimming races – again for boys only!
The Duck Race, not to be confused with our Easter Duck Race, appeared to be the pursuit “both in and out of the water” of a Corporal Stennning!
The early version of Harbour Sports (now River Races) also had a greasy pole competition. This was in the days before Risk Assessment! In the evening everyone gathered in The Square for the side shows, a steam roundabout, music, dancing and merry making. By 1905 ladies were allowed to compete in the pair-oared race and local dogs could compete in their very own race.
The first Carnival Procession took place in 1911 when dozens of torch bearers accompanying the local children and adults all in fancy dress, made their way down the High Street and into The Square. The Freshwater, Totland and Yarmouth Advertiser reported on the events of the evening “dancing was indulged in and fun was rampant, everyone seemingly being out for the sole purpose of enjoying themselves”… In 1921 Yarmouth Regatta included, rather poignantly, a pair-oared race for ex-servicemen. Girls were finally allowed to compete in the swimming races – but still no Ladies and, always keeping up with the times, there was a Motor-Boat Race. The Grand Finale on The Common was a tug-of-war, still held until recently. It was for all comers, eight a side and advertised as having “Substantial money prizes”
Throughout the decades of Yarmouth Carnival familiar local names appeared in the programmes – Doe, Pitman, Kelleway, Kelsey, Harwood and Cotton to name but a few. The descendants of these families and many more local names are still acknowledged each year for their invaluable help with holding Yarmouth Carnival Events which now includes Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races, an Easter Duck Race, Guy Fawkes fi reworks, Senior Citizens Christmas Lunch and Carols in The Square.
For over a hundred years Yarmouth Carnival has been providing fun and entertainment for locals and visitors alike in the true spirit of community goodwill.
Long may it continue…