The Crow Fair
Crow fair participants
Britain’s traditional festival and fairs are something to behold. It’s hard to name a favorite. The Cheese Rolling festival? The Wakes Monday Horn Dance? The Tar Barrel races? The Wife Carrying Competition? Tough decision. I recently came across a celebration I’d never heard of before. It’s one that must certainly give its organizers something to crow about.
The Crow Fair, held every July at Moulton in Cheshire, features a group of men, dressed up like giant crows, who dance around a scarecrow that suddenly comes to life. Thankfully clogs are not involved.
Crow Fair participants of long ago
The origins of the Crow Fair date back to the 1920s during the depression, when local men laid off from their jobs at the salt works, performed the dance at fairs around the county as a way of raising money. To keep their identities secret, they donned giant crow costumes. And thus began a tradition.
The identities of the dancing crows are still a closely guarded secret. Thus preventing the mortification of any middle school aged child they might have spawned. Pity the poor dad who gets to play the farmer. It’s a task that doesn’t require one to be incognito. Instead the job of the farmer is to walk around with a gun, pretend to shoot and kill one of the giant fake birds, after which he releases a bunch of birds.
The fake crows who have escaped the wrath of the fake farmer with his fake gun, then flap off, chased off the field by the fake scarecrow, who by now has come to life. Originally, pigeons were stuffed into the scarecrow’s jacket, but it seems that tradition died out. Probably something to do with EU pigeon regulations.
A close up of a Moulton Crow
Following the performance, which takes place in a large field, as tradition dictates, the giant crows take up a collection from the audience, using their beaks as receptacles for the donations. Nowadays the monies raised helps fund a variety of community related requests.
The crows took a three-decade rest starting in 1972, but the much-loved custom is now back and as fun to watch as ever it was. You can see for yourself, in this short YouTube video clip from the 2016 festival.