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Sandwich Carnival Association to fold due to lack of funding and volunteers

By Eleanor Perkins

Sandwich will no longer be represented at carnivals around the county after the association has been defeated in its battle to stay afloat.

Chairman Christine Key announced she will be folding Sandwich Carnival Association at the end of the season in April.

Her decision to wave goodbye to the tradition is based on a lack of funding and volunteers.

The last ever Sandwich Carnival Court (6964238)
The last ever Sandwich Carnival Court (6964238)

But she’s determined to go out on a high with a big party for all past and present court representatives and is hoping to secure the Guildhall as a venue.

She told the Mercury: “My decision to fold the association is not something that has come out of nowhere.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years.

“It takes up a lot of time, effort and money which we don’t get an awful lot of.

“I don’t get a lot of people stepping forward to help. This year has been difficult because of a few hiccups in the middle of the season.

“Our selection should be in March but we don’t even have the funding to put on a selection.

“I can’t run it on my own and so my decision is final.”

John Fowler handed chairmanship to Christine Key in 2014
John Fowler handed chairmanship to Christine Key in 2014

The association was started by John Fowler around 15 years ago and was taken over by Ms Key in 2014.

It sees young girls and teenagers travel around the county representing their town at events and carnivals, making friends and building confidence along the way.

Ms Fowler became involved with the court when her youngest daughter Emily Key, now 19, was appointed junior princess. She climbed to senior queen in 2015 and later achieved the title of Miss Invicta Kent before going to study Psychology at the University of Lincoln.

This, along with seeing her grandaughter Isla Howard made junior princess have been great highs for Ms Key.

Chairman Christine Key became involved with the association when her daughter, Emily (right) joined the court (6973597)
Chairman Christine Key became involved with the association when her daughter, Emily (right) joined the court (6973597)

In recent years, the association has struggled to financially cope with overheads such as rent to store the town’s float, insurance, travel expenses, dresses and sashes.

She continued: “If truth be told, most of the towns on the circuit are struggling.

“I get certain funding from people in Sandwich but it’s not enough to continue on.

“We rely on whoever is selected for their mums to help us as much as they can but I can’t guarantee that I will get a court with parents who can help.

“I don’t want to put on a selection and get a new group of girls that I can’t give them the experiences they deserve.”

Ms Key says she relies on at least one other adult to support her with events.

This in the past has been Wendy Vincent, Kerry Disney and latterly her eldest daughter Melissa Howard. She’s also had support from Mel Fowler, chairman of Invicta Kent Court.

This year's Sandwich Regatta Court will be the last Picture: Alun Sambrook (6973602)
This year's Sandwich Regatta Court will be the last Picture: Alun Sambrook (6973602)

This year’s court made up of Miss Sandwich Katrina Causer, senior princesses Poppy McCairn and Abbie Harvey, junior queen Fleur De Bruxelles, junior princesses Isla Howard and Georgia Jenner and Little Miss Bella-May Yates, will continue in their roles until a stand down party.

It is hoped to be held between March and June, with all past carnival representatives invited.

Mr Key said: “We don’t have a date or a venue yet but I’d very much like it to be at the Guildhall. They work so hard representing the town and perhaps this is something the town can do for them. We will go out on a high, with lots of happy memories and happy girls.”

Former mayor Cllr Paul Graeme said: “This is a great shame. In the four years we worked with them, we’ve supported them and given them money where we can.

“Many people do not understand the carnival court. They think it is all about the beauty element but we witnessed many of the girls grow in stature.”

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