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Out with the old and in with the new: Hemel’s first Old Town Festival was brilliant!

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The Old Town was flooded with visitors on Saturday as two festivals took place on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year.

More than 1,000 people are thought to have wandered up and down the High Street for the afternoon of attractions, including the Dacorum Folk Fest. The event, which continued well into the evening, included morris dancers, music workshops and face-painting and focused around the iconic Old Town Hall.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Old Town Festival was happening at the same time.

Throngs of traders lined the High Street, which was closed off to traffic so that they could plug their wares freely.

There were also performances by the Rock Choir, bongo drummers and magicians. Other attractions included balloon modelling, street theatre and food demonstrations.

Town centre co-ordinator Jackie Ramnarine said: “It was absolutely brilliant. It was so crowded.

“It was only six hours and within that I would probably say at least a thousand to 2,000 people were there - and maybe more.”

The festival was put together by the Old Town Partnership – a venture which sees local businesses working with Dacorum Borough Council.

It aims to promote and celebrate the High Street’s rich heritage and encourage more visitors.

The road reopened in May after a year of works that were commissioned by Dacorum Borough Council to improve the area.

There is now new granite and York stone paving along the length of High Street, and a new events area overlooking St Mary’s Church.

Feature lighting under the arches of the Old Town Hall, restored railings, and improved lighting also feature in the newly restored High Street.

Earlier this month specially-commissioned ironwork gates designed to capture the rich history of Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town were installed.

The regeneration has come under fire during the course of the work after multiple problems led to long delays.

Setbacks including the discovery of 18th century tombs under the St Mary’s Close car park and the failure of supplies from abroad to show up on time.

Civil engineering firm Jackson, contracted to carry out the works, has been plagued with complaints from traders about losses to their businesses as a result of the ongoing saga.

Council leader Andrew Williams said: “Hopefully now we are looking forward to the positives – the improved street signs, better parking and the opportunity to hold events will make the High Street the vibrant place we want it to be.”

 

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