“ Annual three day event celebrating the Victorian era „
Since coming to live in Llandudno in 2002 we have enjoyed all the benefits of living in a popular seaside town not least of which is the Victorian Extravaganza.
The Extravaganza originally began in 1986 as a way of attracting visitors to Llandudno in the lull between Easter and Spring Bank Holiday and it has grown in popularity each year.
When Is It?
The Extravaganza always takes place over three days - Saturday, Sunday and Monday - culminating on the May Day Bank Holiday Monday. In 2010 that means it is 1st, 2nd and 3rd May.
What Is It?
Well it is what it says - and extravaganza of all things Victorian, although there are a few liberties taken and some things are not actually of Victorian origin! There are parades, fairground rides, displays, competitions and lots of fun for all ages.
The main street through Llandudno - Mostyn Street - is closed to traffic for the three days and the stalls, displays, stages and rides are all set up there. It always amazes me how fast everything gets set up once the road has been closed and how fast it all gets taken apart again at the end of proceedings on Monday!
Admission is free although obviously you will have to pay on the rides etc.
Bodafon Fields is an area at the far end of Llandudno seafront next to the Little Orme and here there is a huge display of old, mainly steam powered vehicles together with old buses and motorcycles. There is usually a small fun fair here too together with an enormous market / car boot sale. There is an admission charge to get onto Bodafon Fields - for 2010 it is £5 for a daily ticket for adults and £1 for children and there are weekend and family tickets available too.
There is a shuttle bus service from Bodafon Fields down into the town run by some of the old buses - what we used to call bone shakers.
It is also worth a mention that entrance to the Bodafon Farm Park is free and they have a large aviary with lots of various owls as well as other birds and also many rare breeds of animals. You can wander round the paddocks and take a look or follow the farm trail. There is also a restaurant up there if you're hungry!
Each day at 12 noon there is a parade of vehicles along the promenade and then round into town. This is always lead by Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang (I told you not everything was Victorian didn't I?) and involves some fantastic traction engines, steam powered vehicles, still walkers, marching bands and lots of people in Victorian Costume - oh and Darth Vader and a group of Storm Troopers - don't ask, I have no idea why!
The parade is of course free as it is passing through the streets but some of the participants carry collecting buckets so have some change at the ready. It really is quite a spectacle of colour and noise - some of those traction engines have powerful air powered horns and the whoop, whoop can be heard all over the town!
On Saturday evening there is the Conwy Road Run at 6pm where the vehicles taking part drive from Llandudno to Conwy, round the town and back again.
On Sunday there is gathering of old Crossville buses which will join the midday parade and then the Great Orme Road Run at 6pm which sees vehicles travelling all the way round Marine Drive at the base of the Great Orme. This is open to any vehicles that can manage it although because the terrain is rather hilly it does exclude things like traction engines and double decker buses aren't allowed round the Orme either - presumably because of the overhanging rocks in places.
At 6pm on Sunday evening a parade of miniature steam engines travels along the promenade to the pier at the base of the Great Orme where they remain for about hakf an hour before returning by the same route.
As I said these are situated all along Mostyn Street with some in the side street off as well. The rides did, at one time, start to get very modern so last year it was decided to return to mainly Victorian rides with one or two from the earlier part of the 20th century such as The Waltzers.
There are children's rides, galloping horses, helter skelters, a big wheel, ghost trains, fun houses, chairoplanes, swing boats and cake walks, as well as an array of stalls where you can win prizes by doing anything from hooking a duck to scoring a high number by throwing darts or rifle shooting.
There is also a section where there is a set of really old fashioned penny arcade machines - and I do mean penny! You can buy some old pennies to play the machines, a lot of which I remember from my childhood (and before you ask no, these are not Victorian!). If you win (yeah right!) you can then change your pennies back to modern money.
As well as the fairground stalls there are lots of charity stalls with raffles, tombolas and games.
There are usually a couple of beautiful old fairground organs as well - you know the ones with all the moving figures - and these are great to stand and watch whilst listening to the sounds of your childhood.
Competitions and Stages
There are competitions for the best Victorian costume and the best Victorian window display in a shop.
There is also a town criers competition and they come from all over the country for this one so there's lots of shouting!
There are usually two stages - one at the top of Upper Mostyn Street near to the Great Orme where there are bands and singers playing all day and evening and one nearer to the middle of the street where there are performers of all kinds during the day.
All the shops in Llandudno are open during the Extravaganza and a lot of them bring some trading out onto the main street. The cafes and restaurants are all open of course but will naturally be very busy at times.
There are usually a few old vehicles parked on the promenade together with their proud owners who are more than ready to have a chat about their pride and joy!
You didn't think I was going to forget our lifeboat did you? No chance!
The lifeboat will be on display on the promenade throughout the three days of the Extravaganza and there will be plenty of people around to answer any questions that you might have.
Our stall selling souvenirs will also be on the promenade in our usual spot next to the boat so if you come to the Extravaganza pop along and say hello.
Last year I was serving on the stall when someone called my name and I turned to see Darth Vader and a few of his Storm Troopers standing there! I nearly jumped out of my skin! Mind you the year before I served Queen Victoria so anything can happen at the Extravaganza!
There is also a hotel near to the end of the promenade near Bodafon Fields called The Fairhaven and they always spend the three days selling coffee, tea, soup and snacks in aid of the Llandudno Lifeboat. They do a roaring trade!
There is always a booklet available to buy for around £2 - £3 and this gives you all the information about the Extravaganza including the times and routes of the parades, times of acts performing on the stages and general information about the transport and fairground rides.
The Extravaganza website can be found at http://victorian-extravaganza.co.uk/ and it gives lots of information about what to expect and photographs from previous years together with a short video advertising this year's event.
I have to say that I always really enjoy Extravaganza weekend - there seems to be a real buzz around the town and everyone has a really good time. It's great to see so many smiling faces.
There is something for everyone whether you're a transport enthusiast, a lover of the fair or just someone who wants to forget your trouble and have fun for a day or three!
One thing I will say is that it can get very crowded in the main street but there's always the promenade or the pier to walk along or you could grab your bucket and spade and head for the beach. There is also the West Shore beach which will be somewhat quieter if you want escape the crowds for a while.