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Otherwise known as village fairs, village fêtes are places where the various groups within the village erect stalls, selling a variety of stuff, offering games with prizes for the winners and generally trying to extract as much money as possible from the punters.
Below are a list of some of the more common (and some of the more uncommon) events to be found at British village fêtes.
Coconut shies allow punters to test their skill at hitting coconuts with wooden balls. If they manage to knock one or more of the coconuts off their stands, they then receive those coconuts.
The act of giving someone a coconut which they have just damaged does seem a bit dubious, but these hardy fruits are ideal for this particular competition.
Almost certainly not invented in ancient Greece, the same wooden balls that are used for the coconut shies, are used to smash plates into smithereens. The game is a wonderful way of releasing pent-up emotion, and the act of imagining your worst enemy's face on the plate as it shatters is rather rewarding. However, care has to be taken on the part of the organisers, as unglazed plates must be used to reduce the risk of shards of pottery flying everywhere.
Wet Sponge Throwing
A very popular stall, this allows people the opportunity to throw wet sponges at someone they supposedly like. Accuracy is important because all the body is protected, leaving only the face exposed. This pulls crowds of school children in, especially if a teacher happens to put themselves in the firing line.
Bran Tub/Lucky Dip
In this game, a large bin is filled to the brim with sawdust or some other filling, with objects placed into the sawdust. These objects are either the actual prizes (if they are small and wrapped up) or markers such as snooker balls that denote different prizes. The customers then put their hand into the tub and supposedly pull out the first thing they touch. It is considered highly unsporting to attempt to identify what you are touching.
Cowpat Bingo, or Spot the Plop
Cowpat or Cow Pattie Bingo is a game of chance and skill, restricted to rural areas. It uses several tonnes of prime British beef, all of which is definitely still on the bone. A cow is placed in a small area, divided into squares. These squares are purchased by people, and they win if the cow defecates in that particular area. Any 'liquids' that the cow may produce are not considered - only solid waste counts.
Hook-a-Duck is a game usually played by younger members of the family, whereby small plastic ducks or boats are placed in a bath of water. The players then have to 'hook a duck' using a piece of bamboo with an eyelet in the end: the ducks all have hooks on their backs. Sometimes a small prize is given, other times the number painted on the bottom of the duck determines whether you have won or not.
Roll a Penny
More often than not, the game consists of two or ten pence pieces (or quarters in the US) which are rolled down ramps onto a grid with amounts of money painted on. If your coin lands entirely within a square, you win the amount of money on that square. If, however, any part of the coin overlaps a line, ie not necessarily going into another square, you lose. There always appears to be more space available than necessary in the square, but winners are rare.
Spin the Arrow
This is another highly entertaining game that can be played for any prize, and in a number of different ways. The board is a disc with an arrow, which is spun. If one person is playing, they pick a number. If the arrow points at that number, they have won the prize. If more than one person is playing, then they wait until all the numbers have been taken, and the arrow is spun again.
Beat the Buzz
Beat the buzz is a challenging test of skill, in which people attempt to negotiate a long piece of wire with a handle which has an eye around the wire. If the handle touches the wire at any point, then the machine buzzes loudly, and you have lost. Sometimes you are allowed three lives, other times you may only get one try. It takes a great deal of determination and a very steady hand to complete the course.
Often the fête organisers will arrange other events for people to look at, in an attempt to make the fête appear more than it actually is.
Marching bands are occasionally provided courtesy of the Army, Navy or the RAF cadets. They would also normally put up a recruitment caravan. Sometimes there will be a non-military troupe and these folk will just march up and down to music. The non-military ones are often more successful; rather than purely being a display of military discipline, the non-military bands use more popular songs and more complex movements.
School Country Dancing
The bane of many a rural schoolchild's life is participating in a country dancing display. One of the problems is the inequality between the numbers of boys and girls, leading to some of the boys having to wear the yellow sashes that are intended to denote the 'girls' in the dances. These dances usually involve dancing repetitive movements which in turn usually involve the 'top couple' changing (everyone moves up and down during the dance). In these dances, remember to throw your partner around at a very fast rate.
Displays of motoring heritage are always popular at fêtes, and not only with the organisers. It allows the drivers to have a day out, to meet other car enthusiasts, and it also gives everyone else a chance to look at some of the wonderful cars of yesteryear.
Sales of Fresh Produce
Often some groups make cakes, jams, preserves, tarts and all manner of delicacies for the public's consumption. Many of these will be made to certain secret recipes, probably only known by a certain ancient villager who will probably take the secret with her to the grave.
Sometimes the organisers work with the local pub to create a larger event - normally involving a beer tent, tens of guest beers and hundreds of drunk people. While this might not be the ideal situation for a village fête, it certainly rakes in the cash for the landlord.