THE city centre of Oxford was turned into an amusement park today, as thousands of people visited this year’s St Giles’ Fair.
The annual fair, which dates back to 1625 and began as a parish festival to celebrate the feast of the patron saint, St Giles, opened this morning and will take place until tomorrow evening.
Hundreds of families weren’t discouraged by the rainy weather this afternoon and turned up to the event held in the heart of Oxford.
The fair, which is run by Oxford City Council, opened yesterday with the traditional service to mark its blessing.
The tradition saw around 50 people gather in St Giles to sing hymns and listen to speeches from the city’s religious leaders and the Lord Mayor.
As the service took place, fairground workers continued in the background putting the finishing touches on the rides, food stalls and games ahead of the fair’s opening.
This afternoon and evening, there were stalls selling street food including fish and chips, hot dogs, burgers, candy floss and more, and dozens of rides and other attractions, including dodgems, waltzers, and the ‘Space Afterburn’.
The fair is considered to be one of the biggest in Europe, taking up all of St Giles’, right up to and beyond the War Memorial, at the meeting of the Woodstock and Banbury roads, which are closed to traffic during the event.
In the 18th century, St Giles’ Fair was a toy fair which then developed into a general children’s fair in the early 19th century.
The funfair element of the event grew during mid and late Victorian times.
The Lord Mayor of Oxford, councillor James Fry, told the Oxford Mail: “I hope on the one hand we get some rain very soon but on the other I hope it is not tomorrow or Tuesday after 11am.
“It is lovely to see [the fair] back and I hope residents will come and enjoy it.”
Joe Noyce, of James Noyce & Sons Funfairs, said: "We have some fantastic rides coming this year, the Mighty Air will be returning, we also have one of the latest thrill rides in ‘Super Trooper XL’ - this is the largest version of this type of ride travelling the UK - there are family favourites like Sky Flyer spinner riders over 100ft in the air, Dodgems, Waltzers and much more.”
During the covid pandemic, the fair was closed for the first time in a number of years.
This sparked outrage from funfair owner, William Hebborn, whose family business, Hebborn Amusements had been attending the fair since 1912.
Mr Hebborn said the fair should never have been cancelled and could have gone ahead with safety procedures.
This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.
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