Ever since I have been a child I have loved the fair. As a youngster growing up on the North East coast we had a lot of static fairgrounds at the seaside resorts. But visited a number of travelling fairs also.
Fast forward to today and I still love the fair. The sights, sounds and smells bring back such wonderful childhood memories.
Reading has lots of visiting fairs in the course of a year, those at events like Pride etc, some travelling ones. But, always the best for me is Carters Steam Fair
So not only is carters a wonderful fair, but they have a wonderful history too. I won’t go into it too much, but it is well worth reading the about page on their website (History).
Basically a family owned fair which started with the Steam Gallopers, before adding the Chair O Plane and the Steam Yachts. All restored from a dilapidated state.
The family uses vintage vehicles to move the fair (well worth checking out the sign writing if you see them – it looks great and has some jokes also), and live in vintage caravans. The ice cram van is well worth looking out.
Following the sad passing of their father John, the fair is still run by his children, who you will encounter if you visit.
I visited the fair twice during the week. Once on Monday evening when it was quieter so I could wander around and experience the fair. My second visit was on Saturday evening, as it was getting dark so I could see the fair lit up and see the fireworks.
The Monday evening visit was wonderful, the fair was quiet enough to easily walk around and short queues for the rides, but busy enough to have atmosphere. The sound of the steam powered organs on the ride playing familiar tunes, laughter (and screams) from some of the rides. The operators on the loudspeakers for their rides as well as the music.
From some rides just the noise and the smell of the steam were so evocative of childhood memories. As it got darker the atmosphere grew. The lights on the ride picking out some of the ornate detail, gold paint and some of the handpainted finishing touches.
The fair closes earlier during the week, and so by eight o’clock all was done and our ride time was over.
But as this was the Easter Bank Holiday weekend we returned on Saturday evening for more fun. We arrived about 730pm and the fair was buzzing. A lot of families and groups of friends were attending. It was great to see how many families were enjoying the rides together and excitedly running (or being dragged by kids) from one ride to another.
I’m not a great one for rides, I don’t have a great head for heights, and I am not good on twirly spinny things. So usually low to the ground rides are my favourites. Sadly I have been a bit injury prone recently so have a bad back and a pulled shoulder. Which ruled out the dodgems at least.
So what did I ride?
I can honestly say I came off all of them laughing and happy for different reasons. Jets were just great fun, Ghost Train is a ghost train – only Scooby Doo being chased by a ghost could not enjoy a Ghost Train.
Biggest smile of the evenings though was the Steam Yachts. Totally wild. Loved the experience, the two operators were amazing, and all of the riders got off with massive smiles.
We were lucky that Easter Saturday had a fireworks display in addition to the fair. I am a big kid, so grabbed a bag of Candy Floss (a lot sweeter than I ever remember, I may finally be slightly turning adult) and headed to the display area.
It is only fair for me to say at this point, I LOVE FIREWORKS. So I had been looking forward to this. I was not disappointed. What it lacked in length it more than made up for with drama. Some amazing whooshes, whizzes and some very impressive cracks, fizzles and bangs. The sky lit up and so did faces around the area. I have included photographs, but they are from my phone. The actual fireworks were far more impressive than they show.
To sum up
How much of this post is brought by nostalgia and how much objectivity?
50:50 I would say. The fair offers so much. The memories (music, lights, the smell of the steam even), but also the happy faces of people I saw showed me it wasn’t just my (distant) memories influencing how I felt.
Carters is a great experience, so many people I spoke to in the week all said how much they love Carters and the rides. Partly this is because they are so beautifully restored and maintained, but also the fun, and taking a new generation to fall in love with fairs.
Carters travel a lot, they also attend events such as Carfest. If you ever get chance to go and see them, please do. Their current schedule is here Diary
When and where will you be visiting them?