Hythe Venetian Fete

Hythe Venetian Fete
Photo: hythe-venetianfete.com
The Hythe Venetian Fete is a water festival that takes place in the small market town of Hythe located on the south coast of Kent, England. It is held biennially on the third Wednesday in August.

Hythe is noted for the Royal Military Canal that runs under Stade Street. It was created as a defense against the possible invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. Despite its name, the canal has never saw military action. The Royal Military Canal is an important environmental site as well as the venue of the famous Hythe Venetian Fete.

Although the first aquatic events were held on the canal in the mid-19th century, it was not until 1890 that the first organized parade of illuminated boats on the canal took place. It was initiated by Edward Palmer, the founder of the Hythe Reporter. Palmer coined the name “Venetian Fete” when he described the event in his newspaper. The name stuck and has been used ever since.

The festival didn’t become a regular occurrence right away due to a number of reasons such as lack of funding, World War I, bad state of the canal after the war, and even opposition of local people. The big revival of the Hythe Venetian Fete took place in 1934. The newly formed Hythe Venetian Fete Society took over the organization. The festival was held annually until the outbreak of World War II. It recommenced in 1946 and became a biennial event in 1954.

The Hythe Venetian Fete is a traditional “floating tableaux” run by unpaid volunteers and sponsored by local businesses and media. It features the opening ceremony, two float parades on the Royal Military Canal, fireworks, live music, entertainment, and food & drink vendors.

The opening ceremony is presided over by the Mayor of Hythe who arrives by a decorated float at the Center Stage of the canal. The ceremony is followed by the daylight parade featuring over 30 imaginatively decorated floats. The floats are divided into four sections, with each section competing for a prize.

After the first parade, spectators can enjoy the entertainment and refreshments while they’re waiting for the nighttime festivities to start. The spectacular fireworks display begins as dusk falls. Following the fireworks, the nighttime parade illuminated with hundreds of fairy lights begins.

Hythe Venetian Fete

Photo: Iain Burke



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