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The history of the
Spalding Flower Parade

During the course of bringing back this momentous event, we have come across boxes of old photographs and old stories from past parades so we thought it would be great to share them

 

The history of the Spalding Flower Parade is certainly a long one with it's roots dating back to the 1920s. When the Jubilee in 1935 of King George V and Queen Mary coincided with the tulip crop, the event became huge.

1935

The crowds that came to the area in 1935 created many problems for the town, not the least of which was traffic.  Coaches and cars literally caused chaos on the narrow lanes around the fields.  Following this an official Tulip Time Committee was formed to plan a route for future years which would direct the traffic to the fields, using a one-way system.  The committee also took over the responsibility for other aspects of Tulip Time, with particular emphasis on the problems created by the large numbers of visitors.  A Tulip Queen competition was organised annually and the crowning of the queen was performed just before the start of Tulip Time.

The first official Tulip Parade

The first official Tulip Parade was held in 1959 and within a few years it had become known worldwide.

Within only three years of its inception the Parade had become so famous that up to a quarter of a million people were coming to Spalding on Parade Day to line the three-mile route.  Soon the organisers were to extend the Parade to include a four-day static exhibition at which the floats could be examined in detail at a distance impossible to achieve on Parade Day.

At it's height, the decorated floats were of huge proportions and could included 250,000 fresh tulip heads. You could ask anyone, anywhere in the UK about Spalding and the Flower Parade would be mentioned.

It was always a tradition to elect a 'Tulip Queen, Miss Tulipland and in latter years, a Flower Queen'. She, along with assistants or deputies would represent the town for 12 months before handing the role over to the new queen.

It was also quite common to have a celebrity attend the parade and perform an opening ceremony.

Jersey links

At the height of the Spalding Flower Parade, the Flower Queen would visit the Battle of Flowers in Jersey and ride in the parade, representing Spalding. The Jersey Queen would then visit Spalding and take part in the parade there. It formed wonderful cultural links with Jersey. Sadly towards the end, this too ceased, mainly due to the escalating costs.

The last parade

The last Spalding Flower Parade was in 2013. This was the 55th parade.  It was axed mainly due to lack of funding but it had also lost it's shine and become 'out dated'. This year, the parade left Springfields and went through the town, returning to Springfields. It was a particularly cold year so tulips were in short supply. It's reported that 200 bags of heads were picked instead of the 1,200 required. Artificial materials had to be used as a supplement.

It was a sad time for this market town. Part of the local heritage was gone forever and despite several attempts to bring it back, it was never the same. To hold such a huge event is a mammoth and very expensive task. No council would fund it and many people were annoyed that it had been transferred to the Springfields shopping centre, out of town. Many believed that this out of town establishment had already damaged the town centre and having the parade there added to it.

Spalding gained the reputation for the place that 'used to have a Flower Parade'.

The revival

It wasn't until 2023 when we decided to bring it back that it regained it's popularity. There is a whole new generation who have never seen a flower parade in Spalding and it rekindled so many fond memories of childhood. If funding could be raised then there was no reason why it couldn't be a huge success. It coined the phrase, 'It's coming home'. The parade was brought back thanks to one local man, Steve Timewell. He managed to get the community behind him with hundreds of volunteers and over £80,000 of private funding and donations. There was no council involvement.

It was decided to keep in with modern times to elect a 'South Holland Ambassador' instead of a 'Flower Queen' and 19 year old Star Perry won the role. She was assisted by Holly Kendrick, her deputy. Both were elected in May 2023, to represent the area for 12 months, and of course, feature in the 2023 Flower Parade.

Whilst some fresh tulips feature in this parade, it was decided early on to incorporate some artificial flowers including 20,000 hand made, knitted flowers. This was in preparation for a disastrous tulip crop.

The 2023 Spalding Flower Parade is 13th May 2023.

Construction of floats

In the early days, floats were designed on paper then constructed in metal frames, often built around a hidden tractor. The frames were covered in straw then fresh flowers were pinned to it. As time moved on, straw was replaced by thin sheets of polythene foam and often artificial flowers were used, particularly in the latter years as the tulip industry began to decline. In a few of the later parades, tulips were imported from Holland.

The metal frames were constructed by local blacksmith, Geoff Dodd and all the floats were decorated by volunteers, often working late into the night before the parade.

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