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Maesbury Canal Festival

The fourth Maesbury Canal Festival on Saturday and Sunday 6/7 September 2014 has been hailed as a resounding success.

Canalware With kind weather, crowds came to the event to see the trading and historic boats moored along the towpath – including the beautiful restored Shropshire Union Fly-boat boat Saturn – and to enjoy the stalls, crafts, demonstrations and entertainment on offer through the weekend.

On the Friday night, boaters and friends who had gathered for the weekend enjoyed a meal together with a quiz set by local canal enthusiasts Mike and Sue Lambourne. The quiz was won by a team from the Shropshire Union Fly-boat Project.

On the Saturday morning, announced by a drum roll from the Boreatton Scout Drum Corps, local councillor Arthur Walpole and his wife Mary opened the event. Canal & River Trust Chief Executive Richard Parry also spoke of his Trust's support for the Montgomery Canal. The guests were then taken for a horse-drawn boat trip down the canal beyond Maesbury, rarely been used by boats since it was restored a few years ago. Trips continued every hour through the weekend.

The Drum Corps continued to provide entertainment through Saturday, changing places with local ensemble Percussion Unlimited. On Sunday the Festival was enlivened by lively performances of Latin-American, Caribbean and African music from Oswestry group The Street Band.

Zoo Throughout the weekend, 110 children signed up for the Wild over Waterways passport to give them the opportunity to make foghorns, decorate paper plates, and have a go at weaving, knotting, and helping the blacksmith and at the rope-walk. They were entertained too by the creatures of The Exotic Zoo, from a skunk to a pair of meerkats.

Saturday ended with a crowded and lively evening of Supper and Songs, with entertainment from talented local singer Libby Gliksman.

Sunday 7 September was even sunnier and busier, with entertainers providing magic tricks and making balloon animals. This was the day to award prizes for the Brain of Monty quiz, the boaters' quiz, the Fun Dog Show, the best decorated boat and, not least, the All England Inland Waterways Gurning Championships where the judges had the difficult decision of which contestant had pulled a most frightful face through the collar of Cracker, the horse who had been pulling the boat trips all day.

Michael Limbrey, Chairman, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, summed up the weekend by saying, “This year's Maesbury Festival more than lived up to the standard of previous festivals and cemented the reputation of the Montgomery Canal for providing friendly and enjoyable events for visitors and local residents.

Festival Field “There were boaters who had come from across the country to return to the Montgomery Canal, and there were visitors coming for the first time to see what the canal is about. It was hard to look at the crowded and colourful Festival site and to remember that fifteen years ago this was an empty field next to a canal that had been abandoned decades before.

“With Maesbury benefiting from so many visitors, we can think of what the return of boats can bring to other places when like Maesbury they are reconnected to the national canal network.

“While we were celebrating the restored canal, the regular group of volunteers from Shropshire Union Canal Society were at work a few miles away, starting to restore the next section of the canal. This section will take the restoration to an old wharf at Crickheath and then there will be just a couple of miles before the canal reaches the navigable section at Llanymynech.

“This year's Festival was the best yet, and was a credit to the team from the Friends of the Montgomery Canal and the Inland Waterways Association who organise the Festival every other year, and to the many other groups and exhibitors who have supported it yet again.”

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