Canadian visitors ‘overwhelmed’ by Goosnargh hospitality

Laura Church Duke, second from left with husband David behind her, surrounded by members of Goosnargh and Whittingham Whitsuntide Festival Committee.
Laura Church Duke, second from left with husband David behind her, surrounded by members of Goosnargh and Whittingham Whitsuntide Festival Committee.
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The Duke family of Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada say they were given a greeting fit for royalty when they stopped by Goosnargh recently to meet representatives of the Goosnargh and Whittingham Whitsuntide Festival, which is twinned with the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival in the Dukes’ hometown.

They came to meet with representatives of the Goosnargh and Whittingham Whitsuntide Festival, which is twinned with the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival in the Dukes’ hometown.

Laura Churchill Duke said she knew about the twinned festivals and realised the village of Goosnargh was on their route to a family holiday in Scotland, so she contacted the committee to arrange a visit.

“It couldn’t have been better timing,” she said.

“When we arrived the festival committee was at the village hall setting up for a jumble sale being held the next day. We were able to meet so many people.”

She said festival secretary Stephanie Butters, with only a few days of notice, had prepared a “grand welcome” for them, presenting them with information on the area, local cheeses and the famous ‘Goosnargh cakes’.

They also learnt all about the similarities of the two festivals, both deeply rooted in tradition, with the Apple Blossom being the youngster at 85 years of age.

Laura said: “In contrast, according to the Whitsuntide Festival chairman, David Butters, written history from 1840 of the community has the festival already having been established, making it over 175 years old.

“Like the Apple Blossom Festival, the Whitsuntide Festival also crowns a queen each year. Where the Apple Blossom Festival Queen, now referred to as an Ambassador, is a young adult who is awarded the title through merit, the Whitsuntide Queen is between the ages of 11 to 15, but usually 12 years old.

“Like the Whitsuntide Festival, the Apple Blossom Festival hosts a grand street parade complete with marching bands, pipes and hundreds of community and business floats.

“The parade processes through the streets of Kentville, where more than 100,000 come out to enjoy the festivities.”

The Dukes were taken on a tour of the village by Stephanie and festival president Tom Ibison, including St Mary’s Church and Oliverson’s Primary School, where the music books that Donna Rhodenizer composed are proudly kept and used.

Rhodenizer is Daniel and Thomas Dukes’ music teacher at Kings County Academy, Kentville, and in 2012 she hosted a concert at Kings featuring British jazz upcoming star AJ Brown, attended by members of the Whitsuntide festival committee and a former festival queen.

“But no trip to the United Kingdom is complete without fish and chips,” said Laura.

“So the tour ended with a stop at the local chippy whose owner, Jill Piner, is the festival’s treasurer.”

Laura said her family was completely overwhelmed by the hospitality of the community of Goosnargh, concluding: “The welcoming gifts, the tour, and finally being invited back to the Ibison’s home to eat fish and chips all showed the warmth and openness of this remarkable community.”