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Hungerford's Victorian Extravaganza takes place, usually on the second Friday in December. The Extravaganza heralds the arrival of Christmas in the town. As though by magic, it is transformed into a wonderland of delights.
For a few hours the town is taken back in time, and becomes a fantastic Victorian scene with a helter-skelter, big wheels, old-time carousels, street stalls, street entertainers, and a wealth of steam traction engines, fairground organs, and other events. Most shops stay open through the evening, many offering added hospitality such as mulled wine and mince pies.
The day starts at 8am with a breakfast, provided by the Three Swans Hotel, on the Town Hall Steps for invited dignitaries who turn out in full Victorian dress, generally in freezing conditions and to the bewilderment of passing motorists!
This is followed during the morning by the judging of the best shop window Christmas display.
Through the day, the many attractions start to arrive in the town, and are set up along Bridge Street and High Street.
By 5pm the town is alive with steam engines, fairground organs, side stalls, street entertainers, the big wheel and other fairground rides. It is wonderful to see young children's faces so enjoying the fairground fun!
Most shops remain open for late-night trading through the evening, and many offer seasonal hospitality.
There are many street stalls offering other refreshments of various types and games to play.
At 7pm the parade starts in Charnham Street at the north end of the town and works its way along Bridge Street and the High Street, lead by a Scottish pipe band.
At 9pm, until 2014, the evening's activities are brought to a close by the Grand Firework Display, in the Three Swans yard.
For those not wishing to return home just yet the town's many pubs and restaurants are busy well into the night.
In 1991, Hungerford held a "Dickensian Week" from 9-14 December. The special events ran through the whole week, and included a daily Victorian bed push; Victorian Street Market on Wednesday, ponies and traps passing though the town, as well as events that in later years formed the key Extravaganza events. See poster for Dickensian Week, 1991.
The Victorian Extravaganza itself started in 1992, and was the brainchild of Keith Haddrell and Stewart Hofgartner, who organised the event for several years.
The Victorian Extravaganza was then run by a committee of local people under the chairmanship of Neale Marney, MBE until 2009.
From 2010, the 19th event, it has been organised by the Hungerford Chamber of Commerce, and its Extravaganza Committee
The event is wholly "non-commercial" and is funded solely by donations from local businesses and other organisations. For several years the main sponsor has been ADP, who in 2013 generously contributed 20% of the total required. The Town and Manor of Hungerford also donated a considerable sum towards the (approx) £12,000 the event costs.
Around 5-12,000 people attend the event each year.
In Dec 2016, the event celebrated its 25th year - and the reinstatement of the splendid firework finale!
- 21st Hungerford Victorian Extravaganza programme 14 Dec 2012. (Thanks to Robert James)