Skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. At this time of year, a vast majority of people attend a firework display in their local town or village. We live in a rural area, and although our part of the country lacks transport, and things for youngsters in their teenage years to amuse themselves with, the local firework display is as popular now as it ever has been. The Big Night out is now in its 34th year. The event is organised by Project Seven, a local charity organisation, in conjunction with the local newspaper, The East Anglian Daily Times, and is a firework extravaganza on a grand scale. The proceeds of the event are donated to various worthy causes, clubs and charities, at a prize-giving event, normally held in December. The event is held in the village of Long Melford in Suffolk, situated between Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury, on the A134. Long Melford has a population of approximately 4,000 people, yet an incredible 16,000 attend the event, held on the closest Friday to 5th November annually. For weeks before the event, volunteers help to build the bonfire in the ground of Melford Hall. The owner, Sir Richard Hyde Parker, kindly allows the spectacle, as well as other events during the year, to be held on his land each year, free of charge. Local factories and warehouses donate pallets to add to the enormous pile for the bonfire, which can be viewed from the road, in the days leading up to the event. Tickets can either be purchased on the gate, or from local stores, before the event. By purchasing early, savings can be made on the entrance price. Tickets are priced at £4 for adults and £2 for children, if purchased before the night, or at £5 for adults and £3 for children on the gate. Car parking is available on the village green, but as locals, we normally drive to a friends and
park away from the event, as the roads can become quite congested. The evening begins with the assembling of various floats at Park Corner. Local businesses, groups and clubs decorate lorries or vans, and are dressed in wild or wacky costumes. The floats are judged at 7pm, after which the procession sets up for the mile drive along the main street, to Melford Hall Park. The main street is lined with people, waiting for a glimpse of the procession, and volunteers rattle buckets full of coins at the many people watching. As all donations benefit local clubs and charities, the response is enormous, and many of the buckets are very heavy by the time the procession reaches the grounds of the Hall. This year, the approach of the procession was heralded by the mournful sound of bagpipes. The Cockney Jocks Pipe Band, a group of men resplendent in Scottish tartan, lead the procession on foot. The band, who already are featured on several CDs featuring the music of bagpipes, have become regulars for the occasion. Local Morris dancers, The Little Egypt Morris Men, also joined the procession. The group, based in the village of Glemsford, jingled their bells and handkerchiefs were held aloft. The thing that stands out with this group of Morris Dancers, is that they really know how to enjoy themselves, which is probably why they are asked to perform all over the country at events. Many of the people lining the streets joined in with the dancing, as their enthusiasm seemed to be contagious. As the procession approached the Hall, hundreds of people had joined in, and as the floats crossed the village green, we all made our way into the park. Vendors stand outside the gates, and along the wall of the park, selling illuminated necklaces, hair bands, and bracelets, which are priced at round £2-£3, and have become a ?tradition? with the youngsters who attend the spectacle. On entering the Park, Volunteers were on hand to take tickets and money,
with the gates clearly labelled, so those people who had purchased tickets early, could enter with minimum fuss. The event is extremely well policed, with local forcesdrafting more officers in especially for the night. Vans of police were being dropped off to the park, as we made our way through earlier in the evening, and also special constables are on duty, to help with the procession and at the event itself. A portable unit is erected as a point at which people may go and complain of any nuisances, or to report lost members of their party. Of course, the St. John?s Ambulance are also on hand, as well as community paramedics, to ensure that the event runs smoothly. The lights from the fairground shone brightly across the park, and the heavy beat of the music was like a magnet for our children, so we made our way over to the rides. Masses of stalls were set out in the centre of the area, with the large rides around the perimeter. The queues were long, but we did manage to ride on all the ones we wished to, and the longest we waited was about ten minutes. As well as small rides for younger children, there were those aimed at older children and adults, such as a big wheel where the carriages spun upside down as the wheel went round, The Eliminator, where people site in a line, and the machine turns round and round very fast, making tummies flip in anticipation. Of course, there were the age-old favourites, such as the Dodgems and the Waltzer, but most of the rides were about £2 per person, and there were several sad looking children, who obviously were not being allowed to venture on because of the prices. The bonfire was lit at 8pm, and the majority of people then left the funfair to witness the spectacle. Orange and yellow flames spread across the night sky, and the breeze spread the heat over to us, even though we were standing a good distance away. Several families, us included, had taken along sparklers, and the sight of pretty pattern
s illuminating the excited faces of young children was heart warming. Whilst we stood watching the bonfire, the volunteers were preparing to light the fireworks. Obviously this procedure is carried out each year with military precision, and takes place on a hill to the rear of Melford Hall. As the bonfire had lit up the night sky, we stood and watched two figures, clad in red boiler suits, walking up the hill, where the fireworks were all set out in circles around the grass. Music boomed across the park, from a 30K sound system located half way down the hill. For as long as I can remember, the music has been provided by Pain?s, and this year, the theme was the 80?s, in the build up to the display. Most of the crowd who had children, were bopping and swaying to the music, and there were even some people dancing, whilst being cheered by other spectators. After approximately half an hour, the crowd were encouraged to count down from ten to one and as the echoes of the last number faded away, the fireworks began. What can I say about the display apart from truly magnificent. It just gets better each and every year, and is a testament to the huge amount of work that the volunteers put in to the make the night one to remember. Rockets soar skyward, leaving a trail of glittering colours in their wake. Fountains of delicately pastel shades fall from the sky, like raindrops, and large noises and explosions abound. The things I adore about the display, is that everything is colour co-ordinated ? the quieter fireworks are normally of the pale lemon, lilac and pink variety, and the larger, noisier varieties, will be bold colours of blue, red and green. The display illuminated the black sky, sending a kaleidoscope of colours above the heads of the waiting crowd. Sharp intakes of breath could be heard from all around, and an almost complete silence descended over the spectators, so that all could be heard was the fireworks. The smell o
f gunpowder was prevalent over the park, and long after the display had finished, it still lingered over the fairground. The display lasted about twenty minutes, and I was truly sorry when it came to an end. Despite there being a chill in the air, the warmth from the bonfire, had served to alleviate the iciness from our bones, and I was loath to leave the warmth of our spot. However, the children were now hungry, so we meandered over to an impressive array of food stalls, sited to the left of the bonfire. We were spoiled for choice. As well as the normal stalls, selling burgers and hot dogs, there were also vans selling hog roast, kebabs, fried chicken, noodles, fish and chips and also a donut van. The children of course clamoured for a burger, so we duly obliged and spent £2.50 on a quarter pounder. The only complaint I would have about the burgers sold, is that no onions were offered, but we did visit just after a busy period. Steve and I decided to wander over to the pork roast van, and bought a pork roll each, which cost an astonishing £3.50. However, it was very tasty, and we also got a huge piece of pork crackling. And so ended our Big Night Out. The children, with tummies filled, were ready to walk the mile back to our car. The event, for us, was over for another year. When we left at 10pm, the fair was still in full swing, and there were still a great many people milling around. I would thoroughly recommend The Big Night out as a great evening?s entertainment. The entrance fee is reasonable, although the fair rides are quite expensive, as is the food. However, there is a fish and chip shop in the village, so it might be an idea to eat either before joining the procession, or after you leave the park. There is no transport to the event, as the local bus service stops running at 6pm, so if you are planning to visit, it is imperative to have access to a car. The event is not really suitable for the disabled, as it i
s quite tricky to push wheelchairs over the rough ground, although a lot of people were pushing buggies, so it would depend on the person. It is essential to wear warm clothes, as there is a lot of standing about, and also I would advise wearing wellies, as if we have had wet weather before the event, the ground can become quite marshy and boggy. Lastly, don?t forget to take your sparklers!