Child Okeford’s “Hey Day” is the annual village fete.
Where does “Hey Day” originate? Is it one word or two? Sadly we have no idea. No one is able to tell us nor can we find any clue from village records. The first record we can find was in the parish magazine “The Hill” in 1969 which referred to Hambledon Hey-Day although in the previous year a fete was held by the Playgroup and PTA at Rivermead Farm, Child Okeford. Since 1969 the event has been called Hambledon Heyday, Child Okeford Hey-Day and finally just Hey Day.
There has been a suggestion the word is linked to a Harvest Festival but if anyone knows for sure we would love to hear from you.
When did it start? As mentioned, the first reference we have found was in 1969 although older villagers recall Hey Days in the 1950’s. One villager remembers an event in the late 1940’s akin to a gymkhana but the only event we can find on record was in July 1947 when the Child Okeford Youth Club held a “Fete and Sports” event at Fontmell Parva. We can find no references to a “Hey Day”, or similar, in any local newspapers up to 1950 nor any reference in parish council records from 1950 to 1967.
A “Hey Day” was held in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973 then became the “Rector’s Fete” in 1974 and 1975. In 1982, in order to raise funds toward the building of a new Community Centre, a “Grand Sponsor Mower and Barbecue Evening” was held and included stalls, steam engines, donkey and cart rides. This was a very successful and popular event and led to the resurrection of the “Hey Day” the following year which was then held annually until 1996.
The event “rested” from 1997 to 2000 although village fetes were held in 1998 at the Recreation Ground and in 1969 at Cranborne Edge, before making a brief return in 2001on the back of the highly successful “Millennium Celebrations” the previous year. We then had to wait until 2014 before a committee was formed to try again although in 2012 and 2013 celebrations were held to commemorate anniversaries of The Queen. Sadly, after much effort, the 2014 event had to be cancelled due to torrential rain. But, undeterred, the committee succeeded in putting on an excellent “Hey Day” in 2015 and each year since.
What’s it all about? Apart from giving the villagers a great day’s fun, from the 1960’s to the 1990’s the prime objective was to raise funds for the village principally the Community Centre, the School and the Village Hall. From 2015 local charities were also supported such as Home Start, Julia’s House and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. In 2017 £3000 was raised toward the establishment of defibrillators in the two redundant telephone kiosks in the village.
Hey Day Highlights
Sadly we cannot find a lot of detail for the 1960’s and 1970’s but fell racing, and skittles seemed popular events and in 1969 we had an “auction of furniture and sundries”!
From 1983 to 1996 the format was very similar. The day started with a fancy dress procession from the village war memorial at The Cross to the Recreation Ground usually headed by the Shaftesbury Town Silver Band. Activities included a (Hambledon) Hill run, welly throwing, tile smashing, Y front challenge (?), toss the bale, horse shoe throwing as well as all the usual stalls. A fairground organ featured regularly and, in 1990, the “cow pat” appeared – pick a square and hope it’s lucky!
Initially the events were opened by local notables such as Michael Oliver and Guy Smallwood but in 1990 George Cole (Arthur Daley in “Minder”) did the honours and in 1992 it was the turn of Buster Merryfield (Uncle Albert on “Only Fools and Horses”). And, in the evenings, dancing to the music of a local band; the highlight being the appearance of The Yetties in 1985.
Also in 1985 a Skittles competition was held in The Saxon Inn as part of the Hey Day celebrations. In 1989 the event was expanded to a week and each year included the Skittles competition, a Treasure Hunt and a Quiz; other occasional events included a Tug of War (1989), Whist Drive (1990), Bingo (1991 – 1995) and a Race Night in 1996.
Moving on to 2015, the weather was perfect, we ran out of beer, we ran out of wine, we ran out of sausages and we even ran out of coconuts. The Saxon Inn and The Baker Arms competed for The Manor Cup with a penalty shoot-out – won by The Baker Arms.
In 2016, the Hey Day commemorated The Queen’s 90th birthday, the event heralded by the ringing of the church bells and a blessing from the Rector for the Okeford Benefice. The Manor Cup was won by The Saxon Inn in a tug of war competition. This year saw the successful return of the evening dance.
David Pope 2017