Published: 07:28, 02 May 2021
| Updated: 13:53, 05 May 2021
It was like the David Essex film That'll Be The Day when two Swale councillors broke off from electioneering to join the fairground.
Deputy leader Cllr Mike Baldock and his colleague Richard Palmer joined Iwade-based Smith's funfair for a two-hour session at Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheppey, on Friday so youngsters from Seashells children's centre in Sheerness could experience all the fun of the fair for free.
Carlos Christian of Smith's funfair
The pair from Sittingbourne were invited to lend a hand by funfair boss Carlos Christian.
He said: "Coronavirus lockdowns have been bad enough for adults but it has really taken its toll on some youngsters so we thought we'd give them a treat in partnership with the council."
He added: "Because of the pandemic we didn't have any spare ride operators so I asked Mike if he could help arrange the day and lend a hand on the dodgems and waltzer. He jumped at the chance. We could not have done it without him and Swale council."
Cllr Baldock (Swale Independents, Borden and Grove Park), now dubbed Bumper Baldock, was given a crash course on the dodgems. Cllr Palmer (Sw Inds, Hartlip, Newington and Upchurch) drew the short straw and ended up on the waltzer.
He admitted: "It was enjoyable but almost as tough as my time in the Army. It felt like I was running forever and getting nowhere. That moving undulating platform is difficult to walk on. It's all up and down. When I finished, it felt like I had walked up Mount Snowdon. But it was nice to see the children enjoying themselves and Carlos has worked very hard to make sure it was as Covid-safe as possible."
Cllr Mike Baldock
Cllr Richard Palmer
'Bumper Baldock' on the dodgems
Cllr Baldock was soon jumping on the back of the bumper cars checking riders were safe and getting them out of trouble.
He said: "I really enjoyed myself. I'd love to go back. It was great seeing the kids smiling. There is something special about a funfair; you get to experience all five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch at the same time. Part of growing up is going to a funfair. Every kid should have that chance. When Carlos suggested the day I thought it was brilliant and helped get in touch with Seashells."
Mr Christian, who was celebrating his 39th birthday, said: "Mike was a natural. It takes nerve to walk into the middle centre of the track. We taught him the basics and how not to get run over."
The funfair has been signed off as Covid-safe. Rides have hand-sanitisers and are wiped clean with anti-bacterial spray regularly. Visitors, who should remain in bubbles of up to six, either sign-in or scan the fair's QR code on arrival.
A strict watch was kept on the number of people allowed in at any one time by the Sheppey EMUs (event marshalling unit) under their new chairman Tracey O'Neill so the site didn't get overcrowded. Face-masks are not necessary unless getting close to people.
Mr Christian said: "It's no different to going to the supermarket except we don't have a roof. It's all outdoors. People need to get back out and enjoy our green and open spaces.
"Unfortunately, Sheerness has a lot of people who might not be able to come, through various different circumstances, so we came together to pull resources to lay this day on for some of the families."
He added: "It was great the councillors got stuck in and put their weight behind the trial. We are hoping to do this again. There is no greater pleasure than putting a smile on a child's face."
All youngsters were given a free candyfloss as they left.
Mum-of-two Elmaz Mehmet from Sheerness said: "It was an absolutely amazing afternoon. We visited the fair when it was at Leysdown but we couldn't go on all the rides because they were £1.50 each. It was lovely to have unlimited access. It was the first time we had been out as a complete family for ages.
Kate Townsend-Blazier from Seashells
"Seashells is amazing and Rose Street Primary School let my son out at 2pm so he could come with his sister and his friends and go on the rides with his classmates."
Kate Townsend-Blazier, the manager of the children's centre in Rose Street, Sheerness, said: "It was a brilliant day. The children absolutely loved it. It was something they might not have had the opportunity of experiencing over the past year because of Covid. There were lots of happy faces - and from the staff as well!"
The funfair is expecting a special visit from the Sheppey Dinosaurs today (Sunday) at 5.30pm. The rides will stay at the Sheerness seafront site, owned by Swale council, until Monday and then move to Hoo. The funfair will return to Leysdown in the summer.