On 7th August, the village of Shillingstone will celebrate 100 years of their sports festival – Rachael Rowe reports on the much-loved family event.
A hundred years ago, Britain was recovering from a World War and a global flu pandemic. The Western Gazette reported on the Shillingstone sports festival at the time, and this year many of the original races will be back on the schedule.
In 1922, a flat half mile race for ex-servicemen reflected Shillingstone’s sad claim as ‘the bravest village in England’, having sent the most men to war per head of population. It was a popular event, won by H. Haine. The open 120 yards hurdles race was won by S. Trowbridge. Other open events in 1922 included both one and two mile bicycle races.
Only locals could enter the 100 yards flat race, and the same for the three-legged race (boys only) and the egg and spoon (just for girls). There were even prizes for garland making, and the total prize pot was valued at £26 (roughly £1,031 today). Blandford Town Band started the day’s events with a parade through the village (and were ‘in attendance on the field during the afternoon and evening’).
A hundred years on, and there will be races for children of all ages, events for fathers and mothers, and an obstacle course. Although the egg in the egg and spoon race has now been replaced with a potato, there is still a traditional sack race.
One shilling entrance
In 1922 people had to pay one shilling to come to the sports day, but in 2022 the event is free for everyone to enjoy. One of the organisers, Kay Ridout, has been busy with the team of volunteers getting things ready for the big day. She first got involved when she came to the village in the 1990s. “I joined in a race as a spectator, got roped in to help – and have been there ever since. Richard Higgs, our sports director, has also been involved for years.”
Remember the raft race?
One of the features of the Shillingstone Sports Day this year is the return of the famous raft race. Until the early 90s decorated homemade rafts raced from Shillingstone to Sturminster Newton. Not everyone – or the rafts – got to the finishing line, and most people got a soaking! If you remember it, you may enjoy this video of the 1991 raft race)
As reeds have made the river more hazardous to navigate, the race has been relaunched this year on dry land as the Go Kraft Race; “we’re looking for a raft with four wheels. Think of the Red Bull soap box challenge, but on the flat”
Kay hopes it will attract creative entries with fancy dress, making the event a fun day out. There will be a prize for the best ‘Go Kraft Boat’, and the best-dressed team.
No tug of war
In the days when you could travel by train to Shillingstone, the Tug of War attracted teams from across North Dorset. In 1922 the tug of war final was played between Child Okeford and Sherborne at Shillingstone (Sherborne won). Sadly, the tug of war no longer takes place – Kay explains: “It’s down to a lack of volunteers and also rope. We have the same people coming forward each time who can’t do everything. We have tried to find someone, but no one came forward.”
The sports festival is open to everyone. Other attractions will include skittles, tennis, a raffle, a treasure hunt, tombola, Splat the Rat, children’s games, face painting, craft stalls and a car boot sale. There will also be various stalls run by numerous village groups. Refreshments will be available, and of course, the always popular Bar Tent.
Events have been sponsored by local business owners Helen Antell of Feathered Nest, Debby Cole of Absolute Catering and Wessex Internet.
If you want to make a Go Kraft vehicle for the race and have a team of four people, entry forms and rules can be obtained from Veronica Jenkins at 01258 863641.
The event is at Shillingstone Recreation Ground on Sunday 7 August, from 1pm to 5pm.