York Spring Fair & Food Festival opens at York Racecourse for Bank Holiday and half-term funfair rides, games and 40 stalls

Town Crier Ben Fry, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of York, Councillor Chris and Joy Cullen, and York Central MP Rachael Maskell at today’s opening ceremony. Picture: Lisa Stonehouse

YORK Spring Fair & Food Festival opened this morning in the Clocktower Enclosure at York Racecourse, Knavesmire, York.

The ribbon was cut by the new Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Chris Cullwick, his first of no doubt many event-opening ceremonies since taking up his office yesterday.

Town Crier Ben Fry heralded the occasion and York Central MP Rachael Maskell was in attendance too to mark English Tourism Week.

Running over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and through the half-term break to June 6, York Spring Fair & Food Festival is the first major outdoor event to be held in York since the easing of Covid restrictions under Step 3 on May 17.

It represents the first outing this year for York funfair operators Coopers Marquees and for many of the food and drink traders.

The event is one of the largest vintage funfairs to be mounted in the north of England for many years, comprising nine adult rides (although many are suitable for all ages),four children-specific rides and five game stalls with prizes every time.

The traction engine and Gavioli organ have not been out for almost two years, unable to turn out at any events last year, and ordinarily they would have attended fairs during the spring but have had many cancellations once more. 

The traction engine was driven in under steam to open the event, with a competition winner, Connor Witty, and his grandfather, Roy Barber, aboard after the family had to shield during the pandemic.

Competition winner Connor Witty and grandfather Ray Barber on the traction engine at the inaugural York Spring Fair & Food Festival at York Racecourse. Picture: Lisa Stonehouse

For vintage funfair enthusiasts, several unique or rare restored rides are on site:

* The 1936 ‘Ark’ Speedway, one of only four working models in Britain;

* Hush Hush, the Monorail train, the oldest ride dating from 1933 and the largest of its kind, featuring 11 local stations on the old LNER line;

* The 1947 Muffin The Mule Autodrome, the last remaining ride of its ilk, still with its original Edwin Hall artwork;

* The 1937 Brooklands Dodgems, one of a very small number of speedway tracks themed on the famous Brooklands motor-racing circuit, featuring rare original artwork.

York Spring Fair & Food Festival has employed many people, their first job in the events industry for many months, and at long last it represents an opportunity to interact with the public.

This outdoor fair and festival is a Covid-compliant event for all ages, where the organisers are following all prevailing Government guidance on Covid-19: signage to remind visitors of one-metre social distancing; hand sanitisers at the entrance and funfair rides and stalls; regular cleaning of rides, stalls and picnic tables and visitors being advised to wear face coverings on funfair rides.

Two family-owned York companies, Cooper Marquees and Jamboree Entertainment, have joined forces to create this event, combining the vintage funfair and a food festival showcasing 40 artisan food and drink producers’ stalls from Yorkshire and beyond.

Connor Witty on a funfair ride at the York Spring Fair & Food Festival. Picture: Lisa Stonehouse

Co-producer Johnny Cooper, chief executive officer of Coopers Marquees, says: “It’s exciting to be able to put together a vintage funfair on a scale that hasn’t been seen in York for decades. 

“The rides are visually stunning with artwork going back almost 90 years.  There will be rides and game stalls for all ages, so it’s a great opportunity to get out and have fun in a Covid 19-compliant environment.”

Fellow co-producer James Cundall, CEO of Jamboree Entertainment, says: “As we emerge from the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown, we are thrilled to be staging one of the first events in Yorkshire that will place the very best Yorkshire products before an audience hungry for an exciting day out.”

Coopers Marquees was established in the 1990s and is now Britain’s tenth-largest marquee company, supplying structures to  events large and small, such as food festivals.

Jamboree Entertainment brings 25 years of experience in producing live entertainment worldwide, and closer to home runs the Winter Wonderland ice rink and funfair, the upcoming season of Sounds In The Grounds concerts and the Great Ryedale Maze at Sherburn. 

The York Spring Fair & Food Festival is open daily from 10am to 6pm; admission is £3 for adults; children aged 12 and under, free. This excludes rides and game stalls, priced at £3 per person. 

From each admission charge, £1 will be donated to the New Building Fund of Ryedale Special Families, a charity that supports families with disabled children and young people.

Tickets are on sale at: ticketsource.co.uk/yorkspringfair. Booking in advance is recommended as numbers will be restricted under the Covid regulations. If unsold, tickets can be bought at the gate.