It’s coming soon - the biggest event of the year in Ely as the city prepares for its Eel Festival and Food and Drink Festival
- Credit: Archant
Ely is busy trumpeting its 1,000 free car parking spaces ahead of the annual four day Eel Festival and Food and Drink Festival from April 28-May 1.
The festivities kick off on the market place on Friday April 28 as local businesses compete in their own eel throwing competition ahead of the world eel throwing championships the following day.
Teams of at least two from local businesses compete on the Friday before the real ‘experts’ take to the stage as part of Eel Day Saturday.
Eel Day begins with a parade from Cross Green next to the cathedral through the city centre to Jubilee Gardens which is the main community event. The day will include, of course, eel throwing (that are in fact stuffed toys) and the annual town crier championships.
Live music and local dance groups and re-enacters all form part of an action packed day that continues to late afternoon.
The following day, Sunday, is the beginning of a two day food festival that will include a cookery theatre with appearances from celebrity chefs Theo Randall and the current Master Chef winner Jane Devonshire.
Although their presentations are free to attend, organisers have arranged for a small group to be offered a master class and conversation with the chefs at a £10 a head event at the Oliver Cromwell Museum.
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“And don’t forget our famous eel food trail,” says Ms Harding explaining that visitors can try out everything from jellied eel fudge in one shop to a full blown eel dish at Poets House or the Prince Albert.
“”One of the best comments I’ve heard over the years was from a visitor who asked if we held eel throwing heats every Friday,” she said. “If they think we do this every Friday all I can say is ‘wow’”.
2017 Event Programme
Friday 28th April - Launch of Eel Food Safari
Friday sees the launch of the Eel Food Safari, which runs across the whole weekend.
A variety of Ely’s restaurants, cafés and food venues embrace our eel theme and offer special festival dishes/menus using eel or providing creative twists on the eel theme. Look out for the Eel Food Safari logo displaying at participating venues nearer the time.
Friday also sees the City Centre Eel Throwing Competition on Ely’s Market Place.
Join us at 11 am for some fun on Ely’s Market Place to see retailers and businesses battle it out to be crowned “City Centre Eel Throwing Business of the Year”, kindly sponsored by the Ely Chamber of Commerce.
Saturday 29th April - Eel Day, Jubilee Gardens
Celebrating over 10 years of this quirky festival, the annual Eel Day Parade begins at 10.30 am from Cross Green (adjacent to Ely Cathedral). Ely’s ‘Ellie the Eel’ will be heading the carnival inspired procession along part of the City’s Eel Trail Heritage Walk – everyone is welcome to join in! Our eels are followed by Ely’s Samba Band which leads the parade down to the Waterside and into Jubilee Gardens where a whole host of eel related activities will be held.
Special highlights include the Town Criers’ Competition where our very own Town Crier, Avril Hayter, arranges for Criers to descend upon Ely to add their finery and bell ringing to the event. Then of course we have the World Eel Throwing Competition (no eels will be harmed in this competition, just stuffed toys!). Can you beat the World record of over 17 meters? This fun activity is open to everyone.
We have a full programme of arena events in Jubilee Gardens including Folk Music, Eel Pottery Workshops, Music and Dancing, Historical Displays and Re-enactments with lots of family participation opportunities.
As you would imagine, eels feature massively in the day and there will be the chance to see live eels. Obviously, it wouldn’t be Eel Day without the opportunity to sample what was once a staple food in the Fens, so this is your chance to taste smoked and jellied eels as well as more conventional forms of food.
Sunday 30th April and Monday 1st May - Food and Drink Festival, Palace Green
Located on Palace Green, under the gaze of the magnificent Ely Cathedral in the heart of this historic city, we have even more artisan traders, an expanded street food scene and some amazing celebrity chefs demonstrating in our fabulous Cookery Theatre, sponsored by G’s Fresh.
All our artisan, specialist food and drink traders will be housed in our large Food Hall with larger producers making up our new Food and Drink Market.
The Street Food Place, comprising of a range of culinary delights will tantalise your taste buds with their unusual, yet exquisitely put together combinations.
Further entertainment will be available throughout the city with many of the shops opening especially for the weekend; Ely will be the place to be on Spring Bank Holiday Weekend!
For information on all these activities and many other fringe events keep checking out the Eel Festival Weekend page at elyeelfestival.co.uk.