Published: 06:00, 25 July 2020
The last weekend of July has long been a time for merry Maidstone residents and visitors to make the most of local waters at the town's annual River Festival.
First established in the 1980s as a small gathering of boats, the event has blown up into a celebration adored by its fun-loving community.
Boat owners come to pitch up along the rivers edge, creating a border of vessels miles long.
The family friendly event was set up for all to come down and take part in the 715 metre raft race and relax on decorated boats.
As well as dressing up their boats, attendees themselves are encouraged to dress up and get involved in water fights on the water.
For the event's 30th anniversary in 2009, the organisers decided to extend the one-day celebration to two days and announced the event would be 80s themed in commemoration.
As the festival grew, a range of musicians have performed, including tribute acts to Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Freddy Mercury.
Performances from the 42nd Highland Regiment and the Bloco Fogo samba band have also entertained visitors with historic reenactments and energetic music.
Some years, a fireworks show over Fremlin Walk has closed the festival with a bang.
From 2017, it has been kept afloat through the support of sponsors such as Weston Homes and Clive Emson after Maidstone Bourough Council withdrew support.
At the time, Cllr Matthew Burton (Con), said while he would support in principle the return of a family-friendly festival but added: “We have a responsibility to consider the costs to the taxpayer.”
Ever since, organisers have been playing a balancing act with health and safety measures on the water and keeping the festival as lively as it has always been.
Last year, 87 boats lined up the Medway River and 330 people visited the County Town to enjoy the festivities.
After being scheduled to go ahead this weekend, the festival had to be cancelled due to the dangers still posed by coronavirus.
Those who are sad to miss out this year can still look forward to it being bigger and better than ever next year.
David Naghi, chairman of the Maidstone River Festival Committee, said: "It's a fantastic day, it's the only time where the people of Maidstone can come to a free event.
"If we do put the festival on and it looked like Brighton beach I would be accused of being irresponsible and spreading coronavirus. And we have got to think of our own safety.
"We were hoping it would all be sorted by the end of July. Because we have got so much time now we should be able to make it bigger and better next year."
More by this authorSophie Bird
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