‘Stupendous’ solstice celebration at fair

Two hundred Ditchling villagers walked to the top of a hill and watched the sun set while Morris dancers played music on the day of the solstice.

It was a rare and ‘stupendous’ day at the Ditchling Fair on June 21. The event fell on the longest day of the year and the sun greeted ‘swarms’ of visitors who came out to enjoy the traditional festivities from 8.30am until 11.30pm.

Lucie Broadbent Smith, the retiring chair of the fair committee, said she was glad to leave with a bang after 20 years as chair.

She said: “It was the most stupendous day. There were swarms of people. Local and from further afield. “

The villagers claimed the high street for the morning and visitors were entertained by Morris dancers, a play from local residents and the crowing of the fair queen.

People went all-out with their fancy dress for the Jack and Jill race in which competitors, dressed as famous couples, collected water from a well at the top of a hill and brought it back down, using a bucket full of holes.

The day’s theme was ‘embracing the arts’ and a couple who dressed as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting won the prize for ‘best dressed’.

The pair dressed as storm troopers - entitled ‘may the fair be with you’ - won the race.

In the afternoon, visitors were amused by the uphill tug-of-war in which one team had a large advantage. The rugby club won that event.

There was also a procession of floats and a scare crow competition.

Lucie said her favourite part was when 200 villagers were led up Lodge Hill by the Morris men and they watched the sun set while the men played music and danced.

She said: “It was a very very special moment because it was the solstice and it’ll probably be decades before that happens again.”