A bit about the Gala…
The Upperthong Gala enjoyed years of being the pinnacle of all the events in the village and surrounding area. Comprising a three-day extravaganza, held on the Upperthong Cricket Club field, the event always took place during the last weekend in June of each year. Quite simply, it brought together all that was good in life – celebrating our wonderful community spirit, great food, live music, unbeatable dancing, amazing neighbours and not to mention the World Championship Welly Wanging competition!
Kickstarting the fun…
The entertainment would start on a Friday evening with an adult-only evening of music, dancing, drinking and eating. The committee would hire one huge marquee and kit it out with a full lighting rig, a stage, a fully licensed bar, a barbecue and even a few tables to rest weary legs after busting some moves on the dancefloor. Live music was played by various local bands and tribute acts.
All families welcome…
Saturday would extend to more family-friendly entertainment. The evening would start warming up around tea-time with plenty of refreshments including the firing up of the barbecue once again and ensuring the bar was fully stocked. Entertainment included a children’s disco, ‘Upperthong has Talent’ show and the Gala Queen Pageant.
In full swing…
Sunday was traditionally the main gala day for all the families in Upperthong and the Holme Valley. Visitors to Upperthong Gala would be treated to such activities as…
- Welly Wanging World Championship.
- A morning church service at St John’s Church followed by procession through the Village with the Gala Queen and her Attendants.
- Fantastic barbeque and well stocked bar
- Music from a local Brass Band
- Face Painting
- Punch and Judy
- Bouncy Castle
- Lots of games and tests of skills
- Judging of the children’s village competition
- Children’s races
- A Grand Raffle
- Stalls selling a variety of products.
- Both the local primary school and pre-school were able to fundraise at the events with stalls of their own.
- The Women’s Institute or Upperthong Ladies as it subsequently became, were also on hand to serve refreshments and sell home-made cakes when your legs got a little weary.
- Most years, we were also fortunate enough to be treated to a Spitfire fly past.
All good things must come to an end…
Sadly, 2012 saw the last gala that was held in this format. As you can imagine, an event like this takes an extraordinary amount of planning and time, not to mention a huge amount of money. When the weather was kind to us, the Gala was usually profitable, but this was not a guarantee. Unfortunately, the weather was extremely unkind to us in 2012. Memories of erecting the marquee with streams of rainwater pouring through the middle still haunt the stalwart committee members who battled to secure the event that weekend.
Following the 2011 event, the committee had undertaken a significant recruitment drive to help with the smooth running of the gala. However, this resulted in the Hall making a loss and a loss that was clearly not sustainable. The decision was made to run a new format of the gala, making more use of the fabric of the Village Hall instead.
Enter ‘The Big Thong Ender’
In 2013, The Big Thong Ender was created. It was a new name, a new format, a new focus, with an altogether new approach. But still the same chance to have a night out with the village and enjoy a great weekend of festivities for all generations of the village. The energy was back!
Friday night was dedicated to the grown-ups of the village to get together and enjoy a huge party. An inclusive village event, the Big Thong Ender extended to The local pub, The Royal Oak, and the Upperthong Cricket Club, meaning all social venues collectively delivered a range of Lagers of the World, a selection of ciders and, for all those with a hankering for Real Ale, a bar fully stocked with known and lesser known ales. A live band played music at the Hall, with a local Curry house providing outside catering.
The Saturday night continued to be more focused on families with younger children, with a children’s disco, Punch and Judy, Fancy dress and food and drink available. This, too, took place in the Village Hall.
On Sunday, the traditional day of festivities centred on the Cricket Club pitch, this time using much smaller gazebos, no more expensive gala tent hire or security in place for the 72 hours. The day took a similar format to previous year, but with the added benefit of visitors being able to use the toilets within the Village Hall and the Cricket Club, negating the need for the portaloo hire cost. There was space for a bouncy castle, 20ft inflatable slide, bungee run, brass band, USSG stalls and games, plenty of food, lots of beer, face painting, tombola, toys, ice cream. Not forgetting the Official Welly Wanging World Championships. We even managed to still secure the spitfire flypast!
Future-proofing the Hall…
This format was a huge success. Once again, the Hall managed to turn a small profit and the threat of running at a huge loss, as in previous years, appeared to have been avoided. The Big Thong Ender ran for the following three years. However, in 2015, Upperthong had to face some difficult facts: committee members had dwindled to such a low number (despite trying to recruit more), and the income generated was modest. It was not financially plausible for the small number of volunteers to run this labour-intensive one-off event and we had to say farewell, for now, to the annual extravaganza. As trustees of the Hall, the committee felt more focus needed to be on The Hall itself; how it could be improved, events it could host on a regular basis and how it could better serve its community year-round.
Safeguarding a World Championship event…
The Cricket Club has held a “family fun day” on the last Sunday of June which includes family games, sporting challenges, and the World Championship Welly Wanging.