"A Fantastic Day"
“A fantastic day”, “We’re new to the area – had no idea this was going on – it’s wonderful”; “Even better than last year, and that was great” – these were some of the comments heard at this year’s (2015) Gala. And it was a fantastic day – the weather was just right, fine, not too hot and with both rain and winds kept at bay. Some 5,000 people are estimated to have attended the Gala in the castle grounds as well as thousands more who came to watch the parade.
The Gala is over 100 years old with Portchester Community Association proud to be the current organisers of this important community event in the annual calendar. Community was very much in evidence this year as along with the commercial traders and stalls (whose fees help keep the Gala viable) there are also scores of community stalls offering displays, information, games, sports, arts, competitions, face-painting, plant sales, crafts - and all the many activities which go towards making a really vibrant community. With no shortage of food or drink and plenty of variety as to what to do, crowds really enjoyed this year’s event (“my favourite Gala EVER” as one six-year old put it). As well as stalls there were donkey rides, Trigger the Train (a favourite), smoothie bikes, a traditional Punch and Judy show and much more.
Thanks as always go to the many volunteers (80 through PCA alone and many more from other groups) who ensure the day goes well; to A.G. Staplefords for the free programme; to the many traders who donated fantastic prizes, and especially to our key sponsors this year, L.V. Noon, celebrating 50 years of trading in Portchester.
Thanks also go to English Heritage for use of the Castle grounds – they had their own stall there for the first time this year and were really impressed with the interest in what they do as well as the great atmosphere of the Gala in general.
Outside the castle walls the funfair was in full swing and this continued into the evening for young people to enjoy as night fell and everyone else had gone home.
The key feature of the Gala is the Carnival Parade and this year was no exception with a bumper array of colourful floats, marching bands, entertainers, “walking” floats, interspersed with historic, quirky and public service vehicles. Leaving Portchester Community Centre at 11.00 a.m. the parade made its way along Westlands Grove, White Hart Lane and Castel Street to Portchester Castle itself where floats were decanted and participants entered the arena for the prize-giving. Masses of people lined the streets to wave while along the route a resident sang to the passing parade and the Portsmouth City band played to the crowds.
Leading the procession this year festooned with banners and balloons was L.V. Noon (Estate Agents), the Gala’s key sponsors. A big “thank you” to L.V. Noon for their support and in putting up display boards around Portchester promoting the Gala (with thanks also to local residents who hosted the boards)!