M FEST 300 by John Pollard
I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend of 24th and 25th June at Weston Park at the MFest 300 Festival.
I took my wife, Mandi, and son, Tobias, and we met up with Bob Harrison, a recent joiner to De Montfort Lodge. Credit where it is due, Bob had organised the trip and he too was joined by his wife, son and granddaughter, Emily, as well as some friends from Chippenham. Bob’s granddaughter Emily was the same age as Tobias (six) and they really enjoyed each other’s company.
On arriving on Friday night, the first job was to erect our (borrowed) tent. Having had a dry run in the back garden a couple of nights before, we managed this in quite good time and both Mandi and I were still on speaking terms once the tent was up – a good start. Bob had arrived a couple of hours before us and had set up what can best be described as a field kitchen. He and his domestic Goddess wife Sheila, had made two types of pasta for us all to eat for dinner – a welcome end to the evening, washed down with some beer, wine and a couple of slugs of single malt.
Saturday was a full day and the sun was intense!! We spent the first couple of hours on the funfair with the kids – all paid for thanks to the special raffle of the 300 bottles of Glenfarclas whisky a year or two previously. The kids almost had as much fun as the adults as we rode dodgems, went on the waltzer and slid down the helter skelter.
Lunch was a couple of pulled-pork baps, chips and a healthy tuna sandwich for Tobias.
In the afternoon, Tobias returned to the funfair with Emily. Meanwhile, with Bob’s military background we went to watch the Staffordshire Cadet band, resplendent in their Grenadier Guards uniforms. The rest of our party enjoyed the falconry whilst I got a well-deserved (stolen) hour’s sleep in the sun ringside.
Many of our old friends from the charities we support were also in attendance with stalls being manned by the air ambulance, Acorns Children’s Hospice and Shropshire and Staffordshire Blood Bikes. They took the opportunity to explain what they do to the visitors as well as raise some much-needed funds over the weekend.
We spoke to the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association who also had a stand. One of their members had an impressive Indian motorcycle – one of only sixty in the country. We also enjoyed the classic car display, even though my own personal favourite was actually a Lambretta scooter called “Spirit of 66” (the year I was born!).
One of the major parts of the weekend was the re-enactment of the Battle of the Alamo. This had been put together by Musket Pipe and Drum Lodge 9906 from Staffordshire, which draws its members from the hobby of historical re-enactment. Over 800 re-enactors participated, remaining in full 19th century costume all weekend. Their camp of several hundred matching canvass tents and a stone constructed Alamo added to the spectacle. The battle itself compressed the twelve days of the battle into an hour of entertainment, which was entertainingly explained to the thousand or so spectators that afternoon.
Around six o’ clock we headed back to our tents and Bob struck up the barbecue. We had some delicious steak and stilton burgers and some bratwurst sausages before heading out again for the Abba stage show. The band didn’t disappoint, playing all the songs you would want to hear from an Abba tribute band, including Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo. Abba were followed by soprano Elinor Jane Moran who treated us to a last night of the proms trio –Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia. We all sang along. Our voices, straight off the terraces, added some gusto to proceedings, if nothing else. There was a firework display to accompany the National Anthem as the night was brought to a conclusion, accompanied by a nightglow of hot air balloons, despite a testing wind making it difficult to control the balloons. We headed off slowly back to camp, slightly sunburnt, tired, but happy, following a very full day. After a brown Scottish drink we all slept soundly.
Tobias and Emily slept for nine-and-a-half hours, something almost unprecedented. We awoke to a steady rain and a very grey sky. The contrast with the day before couldn’t have been greater. We had entered Tobias in the kids fun run, organised by the “Kids Run Free” charity. He completed twelve laps of the track in thirty minutes. We returned and put the tent down in the steady drizzle – not the best experience. We then returned to the funfair and spent another couple of hours on the rides, before climbing back into the car and returning home. It had been a very enjoyable weekend.
The event took three years to plan and involved four Provinces – Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. It was a massive undertaking, but several thousand Masons and their families attended it. It really was a one-off event, the organisation needed probably precluding anything similar being put together for many years to come. Everyone seemed to have fun. It was a great celebration of three hundred years of Masonry, but it was also a great way for many non-Masons and family members to understand better why we are all part of this unique fraternity. Above all though, for me, it was just great to be able to spend two days with my family enjoying each other’s company without the distractions we all face at home.