For the first time since 2019, Okehampton Carnival came back with a bang. Though not as large as in previous years, there was still a crowd of people gathering on Fore Street; sitting or standing but all with smiles, laughter and upbeat chatter, as they waited for the parade to pass by. The sun had even come out for the occasion.

From organisers to members of the public, everyone was pleased to see it return. It seemed like a relief after 18 months of lockdowns, shielding and isolation, human contact was desperately needed and the carnival was just the thing to give the town a bit of celebratory fever. It was joyous, colourful and buzzing with excitement.

The day started off with a coffee morning in Charter Hall. Attendees enjoyed pleasant conversation with tea or coffee and cake, all baked by former Okehampton mayor, Janet Carpenter, though she wasn’t sure about trying out for the Great British Bake Off. She raised £51 for next year’s carnival. Those in a winning mood could also join the raffle with a mountain of goodies from which to choose, all proceeds going towards funds for next year’s carnival.

In the spirit of generosity and love for the carnival, many services and individuals freely offered their help.Tina’s Kitchen donated refreshments for the judges, St John Ambulance offered its medical support and many individuals worked as marshals for the day, doing what marshal Rob Ewen called, ‘all the running around’.

As the raffle winners were announced, chairman Steve Bolt, offered his thanks for all the support and announced the return of the carnival. He said: ‘Thank you very much for turning up for the coffee morning for the carnival. Hopefully, we will get back on track but it may be a bit on the small side this year.’

The reduced scale of the carnival was the only fly in the ointment for many people. Committee member Dave Piper said nostalgically: ‘Normally when it’s in full flow by night-time it’s packed with people. It’s been two years since the last carnival. We live in a lovely town. We try to do as much for the town as we can. It’s great for the town and, hopefully, it will get the town back together again. ’

Mr Piper’s sentiments were echoed by others. Mr Piper’s wife, Ann, said: ‘It’s great that it’s back’ while Alison Dennis along with Kate Plumpton and 18-month-old Logan, carnival spectators, said: ‘It’s nice to see everyone out and about again. It’s usually much bigger than this but I don’t suppose people really want to do that anymore.’

In deference to Covid, the coffee morning was not held in the council chamber as it has in previous years since organisers decided was too small to host everyone safely, and there were far fewer collection tins. Instead, carnival-goers threw coins into a bucket as the parade passed by.

Yet, carnival day progressed smoothly. By early afternoon, Okehampton mayor, Cllr Bob Tolley had crowned carnival princess Ophelia Batson and the children’s parade had begun, everyone dressed in the style of the 1950s. It took a different route this year, starting on the college driveway and led by the Okehampton Excelsior Silver Band. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends lined the streets watching as the children skipped, danced and marched by.

Over 70 children took part and each received a certificate and a goodie bag presented to them by the town mayor and mayoress.

In the evening, the carnival parade returned with lights, music and dancing and a whole host of characters including super-girls, animals and even Christmas puddings.

Mr Bolt added: ‘We have received some lovely comments from people thanking us for our hard work but at the end of the day it’s a community effort and we are lucky to have a very supportive community in Okehampton. Here’s to Saturday 15th October 2022.’