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Patriots from across the West Midlands celebrate St George's Day

By John Scott | Cheslyn Hay & Great Wyrley | News | Published: | Last Updated:

The flags flew with pride and crowds filled the streets as Black Country and South Staffordshire patriots celebrated St George's Day over the weekend.

An estimated 2,000 people took part in the 21st anniversary of the annual 1.7 mile parade from Westminster Road, Stone Cross to Dartmouth Park. Famous fund raiser blind Dave Heeley acted as ambassador for the event.

St George's Day procession

Houses on the route were decked out in flags, banners and bunting - just like many of those taking part in the parade which was launched by West Bromwich carpenter Mark Cowles, who, fittingly celebrated his 50th birthday on St George's Day and is still one of organisers.

Pictures from the parade in West Bromwich

Mr Cowles recalled: "The reason I started it was because of the lack of proper celebration of England's patron saint. Nobody seemed to be doing anything and so myself and some other local people got together and decided to change that.

"We put up posters in shops and pubs to advertise the event and the first year around 150 people turned up. The next year it was 300 and we multiplied by two for year after year until we almost became a victim of our own success with a crowd of 20,000 taking part.

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"They used to come from all over the country but numbers have fallen off after similar events were organised elsewhere. It makes no difference if it 2,000 or 20,000. The more the merrier as far as I am concerned. Over the years we have proved that we can manage large crowds.

"It is a family orientated event that helps to boost the local community. Every other nation celebrates its patron saint, so why shouldn't we. I am a proud Englishman. There is no political message or motive to this. It is simply an opportunity for people to come along and enjoy themselves."

The event, which was led by a British Legion flag bearer and a marching band, stopped at the cenotaph where a short service was held in memory of the fallen from two World Wars. The parade costs around £10,000-a-year to stage with around 40 stewards organising rolling road blocks. The money coming from donations, pub fund raisers and the Dartmouth Park fun day - complete with stalls, dancers, bouncing castles and a fun fair - that followed the walk.

Mr Cowles vowed: "I will continue to organise this until my dying breath. It is hard work but then you look back at the crowds of people and see the smiles on their faces and you know it was all worthwhile."

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St George, in the shape of carnival committee supporter Rob Caddick aboard a shire horse, led the parade in Great Wyrley but had to share the limelight with two children.

Pictures from the parade in Great Wyrley

Kyle Abnett aged 11 and 10-year-old Isabella Maullin, who took the roles of a young St George and his English Rose, followed close behind him in a horse and dray decked out in flags. Sadly the animal due to pull them died shortly before the event but was replaced by a last minute substitute.

Moat Hall Primary pupil Kyle, a keen scout who plays football for the Norton Canes club and is on his school council, and Isabella, a good swimmer who plays the violin and recently took part in the Great Wyrley Got Talent competition, were chosen at the St George's Disco in March.

The walking procession - being held for the sixth year - started from Harrisons Sports and Social Club in Wharwell Lane where a fete was held after the completion of the parade which also featured cubs and brownies disguised as a green dragon, RAF cadets and members of the public.

The fete was topped off with a singalong led by Kathy Christian which featured a medley of English songs and much patriotic flag waving. All proceeds went to the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal. Organiser Mrs Pauline Kelsey said afterwards: "We had a really lovely day. The procession went well, the children enjoyed themselves and we got a good turn out at the fete. Then we had a great sing song finishing with the National Anthem to mark the Queen's birthday."

Pictures from the celebrations in Dudley

In Dudley, celebrations were held at the castle inside the popular Dudley Zoo.

Tickets to celebrations at the zoo were completely sold out ahead of the big day on Sunday.

Families gathered in the sun to celebrate in the attraction's 11th century castle courtyard for a medieval re-enactment, children's entertainment, face painting, dragon puppets and more.

There were also extra talks and feeds at the penguin and sea lion enclosure, ghost tours, and St George's Day themed refreshments.

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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