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Official site of the Hythe Venetian Fete

old fete programHythe Venetian Fete 1890 - 2017

The Hythe Venetian Fete is a tableaux of decorated floats in various themes held on the Royal Military Canal in the town of Hythe every second year on the third Wednesday in August.  The Fete attracts an audience of thousands from far and wide  to see the two processions of up to 40 floats, first in daylight, and then again after dark when illuminated.  At dusk between the two parades there is a grand firework display.

Although aquatic events were held on the canal during the middle of the 19th century it was not until 1890 that Edward Palmer (founder of the Hythe Reporter) suggested a parade of illuminated boats on the canal and on Wednesday 27th August of that year the first parade took place.  Palmer coined the name ‘Venetian Fete’ when he reported the event in his newspaper and the name stuck and has been used ever since.

The Venetian Fete has had a chequered history.  In 1891 three Fetes were held but due to reluctance of people to support the event by putting money in the collecting tins no Fetes were held in 1892 or 1893.  1894 saw the first Hythe Cricket Week and the Venetian Fete was part of this event to entice visitors to the Cricket Club’s money raising events.  This continued until World War One during which no Fetes were held.  In 1919 the Cricket Week was restarted but without the Venetian Fete as the canal was in a bad state due to war labour problems and heavy weed.

The Fete restarted in 1927, organised by Frederick Harlow and the Hythe Chamber of Commerce and was held for the next two years but due to bitter opposition by local people of the banks being closed for 8 hours on Fete day no Fetes were held for the next 3 years.

1934 saw the big revival when the organisation of the Fete was taken over by the volunteers of the newly formed Hythe Venetian Fete Society and the Society’s Minute Books date back to this occasion.

The Fete in that year took on the form we know today – the presence on the water of the Hythe Mayor and the other Mayors of the Cinque Ports; two parades – daylight and illuminated; and fireworks – all paid for by public subscription.  The Fete was held annually until the outbreak of war in 1939 and the Fete on the 30th August of that year was the last public event held in Hythe until 1946 when the Fete recommenced.

No Fete was held in 1947 due to lack of materials but it was held annually from 1948 to 1954, but due to the escalating cost and time taken to organise, the Fete became a biennial event and has been held on the 3rd Wednesday of August every second year since, (except 1980 when due to the construction of the Prospect Road bypass it reverted to the odd years).

It should not be forgotten that the organisers are unpaid volunteers with a committee running the Hythe Venetian Fete Society Limited, which is now a Company limited by Guarantee.  Thus the original constitution continues to provide a spectacular entertainment for thousands and any surplus funds are donated to local organisations that assist with the running of the Fete.