Maidenhead is home to Carter’s Steam Fair, a travelling fun fair powered mainly by steam. Founded in 1980 by John Carter (a Maidonian), after the purchase and restoration of an old gallopers ride, it tours around the South East, moving to a different location every week. John sadly died around 10 years ago now, but his legacy lives on in both his wife, Anna, and his sons. This year is the 30th Anniversary of the funfair!
It has always been traditional to have a ‘road run’ through the town, and this year was no exception. I hopped on my bike and – thinking I’d missed the start – raced to the bottom of town. There was, however, no-one there, so I realised either they’d been and gone, or they hadn’t come at all. So, I cycled back up Gringer Hill and waited there. By now it was about 12:15pm (the procession was meant to start at 12), so after a bit more waiting I gave up and went home.
Just as I cycled onto the drive, Mum and Dad were about to leave to go to town, and asked me if I wanted to join them. Then, as we pulled out of the estate, we saw them drive past us from Pinkney’s Green. I started taking some pictures, and then re-met them on foot at the bottom of town once again, where I had been half-an-hour earlier. Then, I saw one of my friends, William Doolan on the back of a trailer, and then his Dad, Tony, a little further behind in a truck. Tony jokingly shouted out of the window, “You should sit on the front!”. But then, as I continued to photograph them, he told me they’d be stopping at Frascatti Way for one minute, and I should talk to him there.
Bikeless, I ran to the lay-by, and then the convoy pulled up. The drivers and other engine-operators stretched their legs, and then started driving on – one by one. Tony beckoned me to the van he was leaning out of, and then grabbed my camera, pulled me up, and before I really knew what was happening; he’d squeezed me into the truck!
It definitely was a squeeze: there was him, me, the driver (Seth Carter, one of the owner’s), and another guy who’d now been forced to stand up! But they were all very friendly, and I was able to be driven up Castle Hill and wave at the public who stood at the sides of the road, watching. Tony pointed out that Seth only poops his horn when he sees a pretty girl!
As they pulled up onto the site, with less than 30 minutes to go until the start of the fair, it was frantic with cables being laid across the site and Seth being hassled about where everything should be. But it offered me a, quite literally, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and finally I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time!
Carters Steam Fair is at Pinkneys Green in Maidenhead this weekend: 12 – 11pm Saturday 8 May, 12 – 9pm Sunday 9 May 2010. More details can be found here.