After the success of the Royal Silver Jubilee celebrations held in 1977 at the village school, a group of villagers, lead by Tony Badcock, sought to hold a similar annual event. An open meeting was called and a committee formed under the chairmanship of Leslie Halls to organise a village feast once again.
Leslie lived with his wife Mabel at Grey Gables and appropriately they offered the use of Camping Close for the event. A 50/50 auction and Christmas dinner dance were organised to raise funds.
The feast was held over two days on the second weekend of September 1978. A large marquee was hired from Chesterton scouts in which to hold the competitive show with various smaller tents used to house side shows and the tea stall. There was a pet show and races run for both children and adults.
After the judges had completed their duties the marquee was opened for everyone to view the entries. Once the race schedule was completed, a draw was held and finally an auction of the produce donated by the show competitors. Eric Fretwell was originally the auctioneer, followed in later years by Tony Badcock and this event soon became one of the highlights of the day with many phantom bids and exorbitant prices being paid.
A barbecue and dance was held in the village hall on the Saturday night.
Sunday afternoon saw the fancy dress competition, prize giving and an open air service taken jointly by the Rev.John Askey and Pastor Peter Cockerton. Music was provided by the City of Ely Military band who gave a concert for us after the service.
The weekend was an amazing success and the format was to be followed right to the end of the century. The event moved to the school in the 1980s with a change of date to the third weekend of August.
During this time various bands played on the Sunday afternoon, including Wicken Coronation, Haddenham and Cottenham and then Waterbeach Salvation Army bands.
Mr Tom Jackson, “the Ely vet” judged every pet show but one during this time, the one absence being due to his attending a family wedding in Ireland. Similarly Albert Wesley, a stalwart of the Ely Horticultural Society judged the fruit and vegetables for almost 20 years.
The Feast continues today and is held at Oakfields with sports for all, side shows and stalls. Sadly, the entries for the competitive show dwindled so much that it is now no longer viable.
Compiled 2011 by Tony Shaw and transcribed by Judith Young
See also The feast between the two world wars by Tony Shaw.