People came in their thousands on Saturday to celebrate what is fast becoming one of Ely’s most successful events. Many joined the eel like procession, snaking its way from the town into Jubilee Gardens. Led by Star 107’s Promo Car and Ely Samba’s Band, the procession stretched from the bottom of Forehill to the very top. Once in the gardens, the magnificent 3-metre high galvanized steel Eel was unveiled by Anglia TV weather girl Wendy Hurrell. A gift from the Rotary Club of Ely to the people of Ely and District, it was accepted on behalf of the community by Councillor Jeremy Friend-Smith, Chairman of East Cambridgeshire District Council.
Rotary President, Keith Butterworth, explained that the members of his Club had decided to mark the centenary of Rotary International by commissioning the Eel from Peter Baker, a well-known artist in steel who lives in Pymoor. £7000 had been raised in ‘cash and kind’ to enable the project to be brought to completion. Much of the money had come from Rotarians’ own pockets, but the local companies and corporate bodies who had also generously donated were acknowledged in a commemorative pamphlet which was given.
The magnificent 3-metre high galvanized steel Eel was unveiled by Anglia TV weather girl Wendy Hurrell.
With the event officially opened the afternoon was full of entertainment, the vast amount of which was free. The Lantern Dancers, Theatre of the Small and The Vikings kept us all highly entertained with their performances in the arena whilst side stalls kept the children and parents alike amused. Both Radio Stations were present, with Star 107 providing a Bouncy Castle and Wind Tunnel and Q103 running children’s competitions and launching a balloon release to mark the close of the day. The Environment Agency brought along their tank full of eels and other fish which went down very well as did their colouring workshops. Next door to the live eels, perhaps not ideally planned (!), was the chance to sample smoked eel. David Bunning, a regular fish trader to Ely Farmers Markets, said he couldn’t believe how many people purchased some eels as a result of tasting the sample, having never previously tried eels before.
The Puppet workshops and pottery making were also popular as was the History Tent where people could see eel catching equipment and read all about the importance of eels to Ely.
I can assure everyone that we did not throw real eels!
East Cambs records were set for the very first time to see who could throw the eels the furthest. This new addition to the event had caused lots of early media interest as some were concerned that real eels were being thrown! Event Organiser Tracey Harding said: I can assure everyone that we did not throw real eels! Our eels, which look very much like stuffed socks, are totally humane and the competition on the day was extremely successful. The activity, run by East Cambs District Council’s Sports Development Team, will definitely be back next year so that the records can hopefully be smashed.
The whole event was an excellent example of partnership working and involved so many voluntary groups. The event is a firm fixture on the East Cambs diary and it is hoped that more and more organisations would like to get directly involved in the event for next year.