September festivals: Cumbria’s Crab Fair

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By Karen Hart

Find out about a Cumbrian festival that includes a gurning championship, and make your own funny faces.

The crabs at the Crab Fair in Egremont, Cumbria are actually crab apples, and were traditionally given to children by the lord of the manor. Originally a harvest festival, the fair traditionally begins with the Parade of the Apple Cart, a tradition dating back to the times when serfs would pay their dues at the manor with wild fruit. Today men throw apples from the cart as it passes by. Other activities include; greasy pole climbing, wrestling competitions, a sprint across the moors and costumed wheelbarrow races. Unfortunately, the ‘biskey and treacle contest’, in which contestants raced to gobble up treacle-soaked teacakes, has died out.

The Egremont Crab Fair is one of the world’s oldest fairs, being created in a charter signed by King Henry II in 1267, and although some of the once-popular activities such as cock fighting and bull baiting have long since died out, probably the strangest pursuit of all – the World Gurning Championship – is going strong. Held in the Market Hall, contestants are challenged to pull the funniest face they can whilst poking their head through a horse’s collar!


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