16 April 2024

An unforgettable weekend

By Sam Hawcroft

Organisers of Withernsea’s first-ever Blue Light Weekend have been hailed for “knocking it out of the park” as thousands packed the South Promenade for two days of events, the likes of which the town had never before seen.

After weeks of poor weather, the conditions turned for the better to allow the weekend to go off with barely a hitch.

The event was the original vision of Withernsea RNLI’s Steve Medcalf, and it was held in his memory after his death in December – a fact that revellers could be left in no doubt of knowing.

Steve’s name was on the organisers’ T-shirts and other event livery, as well as regularly being mentioned over the PA. Numerous people commented that the weekend was surely all that he would have wanted – and more.

The Saturday began with the welcome return of Withernsea’s popular raft race, which was hotly contested by four teams – Withernsea RNLI, Withernsea Fire Brigade, Medcalf Builders and Withernsea RUFC.

The Blip Active sea swims were next, while the Green Ginger Garland dancers entertained people on the prom. The MC for the afternoon, John Harding from Seaside FM, was puzzled by the fact they wore red, and not green. “Because we like red!” came the answer.

The excitement was building for the afternoon’s finale, the family colour run/walk. It got under way among huge clouds of powder of vivid hues, with all of the participants (and many bystanders, too) covered from head to toe in the stuff as they made their way along the prom.

Though the undoubted highlight of Saturday was the family colour run, it was always expected that the Sunday would be the busiest day.

Saturday’s sporting events – Hull City’s first home match of the season and Hull KR in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley – as well as the Humber Street Sesh in Hull, no doubt had an impact on numbers, not that this was remotely felt by us on the Gazette stall who were inundated by a steady stream of people coming to buy raffle tickets for the Tiger Moth and helicopter flights.

Sunday’s air show did indeed attract the crowds – as the day wore on, the prom became busier and busier.

The first attraction of the day, though, was the sea exercises by the three local lifeboats – Withernsea, Humber and Bridlington, who came together in a rare spectacle which involved mock rescues and demonstrations of the various boats’ capabilities. The Bridlington lifeboat showed how it could “turn on a sixpence”, as the MC for Sunday, Rich Acklam said – making impressive waves as it went round and round in the water.

The day’s aerial attractions got under way with the first of two displays by the Royal Navy Raiders parachute team, who dropped on to the beach near the lifeboat station after being flown by Hollym-based helicopter pilot Martyn Taylor. Martyn, having recently taken a series of examinations, is now the only pilot in the north of England qualified to drop parachutists.

The Raiders descended, adorned with flags and letting off coloured smoke flares, before making their way into the watching crowds to pack up their parachutes and chat to people.

Shortly afterwards came a display by Nick Lee in a wartime Tiger Moth.

Nick, a recently retired veteran airline pilot with a passion for vintage aircraft, performed a series of gentle manoeuvres above the swelling crowds on the prom, accompanied by insightful commentary from the man responsible for arranging all of the visiting planes – Patrington’s Sgt Dave Walker, aka Para Dave.

Then it was the turn of champion stunt pilot Tom Cassells to wow the crowds, as he twisted, turned, stalled and plummeted, round and round to breathtaking effect, releasing plumes of smoke into the sky.

Later came the unmistakable, heart-stirring roar of the engines of the Lancaster bomber.

The legendary wartime aircraft – part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the only one of its kind that is still airworthy – had not been billed to appear, but was a more than welcome change from the originally advertised Spitfire and Hurricane, which were unable to fly over due to refuelling issues.

The hundreds watching below were stunned, many of them emotional, as they watched the huge four-engined heavy bomber in 460 Squadron (RAAF) colours fly along the prom, bank, turn and fly back and forth numerous times.

During the afternoon the Gazette stall had continued to sell hundreds of raffle tickets for
a flight with Martyn Taylor later that day – but this was no ordinary raffle. People were asked to put their name and phone number down on beer mats which were then scattered over the beach where the Raiders were to make their second drop of the day. Three beer mats were plucked from the sands by the parachutists, and the lucky winners were Barbara Dixon, Darren Cooper and Michael Cripps.

More reports and pictures in our eight-page souvenir special – out now!