Kate Chapman, former deputy editor Spalding Guardian & Lincolnshire Free Press
* My grandfather used to live down Alexandra Road, in Spalding, so parade day would often involve us going to his house and then walking to the top of the road to watch the floats / bands as they passed along Love Lane.
As a child aged 4/5/6/7 it was a wonderful sight – my first real experience of massive crowds. People were stood several deep at the roadside, some standing on their dining room chairs to get a better view, all waving flags, holding balloons and cheering. I can remember there being real excitement about spotting the celebs who rode in the parade car – usually someone like Keith Barron from Viva Espana or an ITV weatherman as well as looking out for the Flower Queen’s float. It was all very exciting and a highlight of the year for a young child.
I attended Weston Primary School and in the 80s it was a tradition each year for pupils to help decorate a floral decoration that was then placed somewhere in town. I can remember pinning tulip heads on a monkey climbing a pole. It was set outside the infant classroom on a trestle, so that it was laid on its side. We’d be taken out in groups and shown how to lay the heads on and pin them in place, so that the rows of flower heads would cover the previous pins. I can’t remember much else about it, other than the work made our hands filthy, the pins smelt funny and there were often incidents of children stabbing themselves! Not sure H&S would let us do it nowadays!
When I started university, during the endless rounds of ‘getting to know you’ sessions with housemates / course mates, when I told people I came from near Spalding, they always replied (no matter where they were from) – ‘ah wow, that’s the Spalding Flower Parade isn’t it?’ Always made me smile!
In my late teens / early 20s my memories are filled with spending the Saturday afternoon outside the Lincolnshire Poacher pub, on the riverbank. Flower Parade weekend was always great for catching up with old friends. You could guarantee it was the one weekend of the year when *everyone* would be out and all the university students came home. Lots of happy memories of meeting up with friends who I wouldn’t otherwise see very often – and long social sessions starting at lunchtime often lasting in the early hours of the following morning! Ask anyone my age and they will tell you it was the best weekend of the year!
Although I worked at the Lincolnshire Free Press for almost ten years, I can only recall being put on the rota to cover the parade once. I remember the day being organised with military precision – there were three reporters, each teamed up with a photographer. One pair at Springfields, one following the parade and the third pair floating around the town centre in case there were any particular incidents that required covering. It was then a case of making sure we’d spoken to all the key people involved in organising / taking part in the day to get some response to how things had gone afterwards and then back to the office about 3/4pm to write it all up for the following week’s papers.
One of the perks of being part of the Saturday late-shift team was that the company stumped up for a takeaway pizza tea to help keep morale up – a very rare treat! While the downside was bumping into your colleagues who were out enjoying the festivities while you were hard at work. Although, if things went smoothly enough there was usually time to head out and join them once the reports were written.