IWA 14th National Trail-boat Festival May 1998
Issue 69 of 'Dragonfly' magazine carried several articles devoted to the Trail-Boat Festival held at Wootton Bassett in 1998. Chief organiser Henry Smith had this to say before listing many people who had planned and worked behind the scenes: "The IWA National Trail-boat Festival held at Wootton Bassett over the Bank Holiday weekend 23rd-25th May appears to have been a major success. The opening ceremony was performed by Dr. David Bellamy and his arrival by Rolls Royce, JCB, water bike and hot air balloon proved a great draw to the television cameras."
The local perspective of the event was given by Gerry Townsend:
"On the Thursday and Friday of the festival weekend Group members were busy putting up tents, marking out the arena and doing the many other tasks. On Friday boats began arriving from all over the country, from Yorkshire to Kent and Somerset, about 50 in all and so the festival started on time. The weather was kind with only a light shower on Saturday evening. The Town Band played at the event, with an address by TV personality David Bellamy supported by our town mayor John Allen and civic dignitaries from along the route of the canal.
"Large crowds attended to watch the proceedings, the dog show, the Devizes Major Wrecks, the boat events, hot air balloons and helicopter rides. I know the various stalls, IWA, Wilderness Boats, our own publicity stand and the many arts and crafts were kept busy all the weekend. The highlight was perhaps, the parade of illuminated boats, a river of colour moving slowly back along the waterway.
"The festival was a success for the W&BCAG and a big thank you to all those who made it so. As the festival ended the rain came down and we were able to pack our displays and stock to make our way home, tired but happy."
The photos in the magazine were all in in black-and-white due to the high cost of printing in colour qt the time. However, the Canal Trust archive has a huge number of colour photos from the event; apart from two aerial shots supplied by Ron Robertson, the rest of those on this web-page were from Vic Miller's collection. Vic had also taken plenty of photos during the early part of the year, recording the lowering of the sewer pipe that had blocked navigation for anything larger than a kayak.
It was a special celebration for Vic because his new boat, a Sea Otter named 'Nonsuch', was named at the festival by David Bellamy - though 'Nonsuch' had been taken on a test launch down the slipway before the event started.