We opted for the Fletching village fete.  It was spread out across the village cricket green with various stalls.  One section was reserved for the vintage car show.  Then there was the bell-ringing in the church.  That was unique.  My husband and our younger daughter participated in that.  Meanwhile, our older daughter and I visited the art exhibit within the church.  Quite an impressive display, and though she could not afford it, our daughter wanted to buy several paintings.  I must say, it would have been nice to support the local talent.

The atmosphere of the fete was quite subdued, and I wondered if that was the case for all fetes.  As I understand it, the difference between a fete and a fayre is that the fayres usually have competitive games and rides.  Of course, the Rusper fayre did not have rides, but it did have games.  This fete had some children’s games, a bowling pitch, clay pigeon shoot, and air water-bottles, but no participatory competitions.  The fayres concentrated more on fun, whereas the fetes concentrated on sales.  There were various stalls from different charities and organisations, selling books and other items for funds.  Others sold plants and produce, jams, etc.

Of course, the distinctions between fayres and fetes have probably dissolved over the years, with many churches and villages changing the venues.  It’s getting harder to define these traditional British celebrations.  We still have yet to experience the carnivals.  In the US, the word “carnival” is used so loosely to mean a fun-fair, that it will be a new experience.  Of course, we had parades in the US, but it was never followed with a fayre.

Well, the summer fun-fairs have just started to kick off. This weekend we attended the year’s first fun-fair in the local town of Uckfield, East Sussex. I’ve been told that, normally, fun-fairs and fetes start around Easter, so this was a little early. Compared to the US, where fun-fairs usually start around the Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May), this is exceptionally early.

(It’s funny that people disparage the British weather, when it actually is milder than many parts of the US where I’ve lived. This explains why fun-fairs and other summertime activities start earlier and end much later than they do in the US. Summer events in the US are usually held between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day (first Monday in September), but here it happens between the middle of March and ends sometime in October.)

There were other differences in the way the fairs are managed. In the US, you will see ride operators going around to manually check that everyone is properly strapped in before they begin the machines. Here, they relied solely on the machine working properly and did a visual inspection to be sure everyone has their straps on. The fair was set up in the park and as usual, litter was all over the place. In the US, they provided extra waste bins, but they filled up so quickly, and no one was emptying them, so litter was everywhere but for a different reason. Here, the only waste bins you’d find were the ones lining the perimeter of the park, and people just can’t be bothered to walk that distance.

The other frustration was that the fair operators did not provide any toilet facilities. They served food and drink but offered nothing for excretion. We were forced to go to the adjoining supermarket (Tesco’s), but for whatever reason, this supermarket decided to close their restrooms every night starting at 7pm. Since it was after 7pm, we then had to walk further to McDonald’s, always a reliable standby for emergency services. As expected, the kids then wanted to eat at the old Mickey-D. It was a bad business plan for the fair operators not to provide any toilets because now they lost out on the food custom.

The kids had a blast.  Ticket prices were very low (6 GBP per person, though we were charged 5 GBP), compared to how much we used to pay in the US ($15).  We realised that as we got older, our stomachs could not handle all the dizzying rides like they used to.

I’ll be seeing how all the other fairs and fetes are run before making any other comparisons. I’m looking forward to it.