The city that’s ‘head over eels for you’ celebrates in great style with its traditional parade and sun drenched riverside festival
- Credit: Mike Rouse
Google ‘eel day’ and only Ely comes up – such is the popularity of not only this ubiquitous little predator but of the event that has become synonymous with the early May Bank Holiday in Ely.
The eel theme resonated throughout the city – in dishes on the Eel food safari, in the eel themed cocktails and, of course, a gigantic eel joining Saturday’s opening parade.
“It’s always a good time to visit Ely as the city celebrates its relationship with the humble eel,” said a spokesman for Visit Ely that co-ordinates the weekend of events.
Plenty of shops got into the theme too, with one inviting those attending “to pop in to Jensen’s, one of the newest shops in Ely, and pick up an Eel skin bag”.
Ely’s Ellie the Eel went from the cathedral with her entourage following part of the Eel Trail Heritage Walk accompanied by a samba band, the Eel Knight, of course, and an assortment of local groups and organisations.
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There were also town criers – taking part later in the British championships – who ensured that even if you couldn’t see the parade you could at least hear part of it.
Once by the waterfront the thousands of visitors – estimated to have exceeded 10,000 on the day – were treated to an afternoon of entertainment in the main enclosure.
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Food and drink outlets catered as best they could with the unprecedented hot weather but long queues were inevitable as the numbers attending grew and the sun grew stronger.
The day was also, of course, a day for eel puns – a food platter from a Soham pub was inscribed with the legend ‘I’m head over eels for you’.
And of the eels used for the world eel throwing championships?
“Our eels were sewn for us 16 years ago and are still going strong,” said the Visit Ely spokesman.
“They hibernate in their own special storage area each year at Cromwell’s House and make their star appearance at the eel throwing.”