Bang. The boom of a bass drum echoes through the market town of Helston, starting the Flora Day festivities for the year – banishing winter and welcoming the spring sunshine.
The Helston Flora Day traditions have endured centuries, having originated in Pagan times, and the festival today sees the whole town ablaze with flowers; shops, houses and of course, pubs are decorated with bluebells, gorse, laurel and Lily of the Valley. Food stalls stretch down the main street ensuring you don’t go hungry, alongside craft stalls selling unique Cornish products and gifts.
The Furry Dance, otherwise known as the Flora Dance is the big draw of the day and can be seen zigzagging through the town at 7am, 9.40am, Midday and 5pm. Kicking off the festivities is the Morning Dance, men and women leave the Guild Hall and take to the streets accompanied by the town band, and early rising spectators. The music of the Flora Dance is unique to the Helston Town Band and it has never been written down - instead the tune is handed from generation to generation. Throughout the day the band will tread the route four times, covering almost 16 miles and playing the iconic tune over 1000 times.
The Children’s Dance takes place at 9.40am and is probably the most watched of the day, as proud parents line the pavements watching their children all dressed in white - boys wear their school ties, girls with school colours in their hair.
The Midday dance is a very formal affair, with men in top hats and tails and women in an array of ball gowns, their heads adorned with elaborate hats and Lily of the Valley pinned to their lapels. For a different perspective of the dance, we recommend heading down to Lismore Gardens. These historic, unique grounds are only open to the public on Flora Day and offer the chance to see a mesmerising rainbow of colours weave their way through shrub-lined pathways, or reflected in the lake before the dancers take a well earned break on the lawns.
Another must-see event is the Hal-an-Tow, which takes place at 8am. This theatrical display winds its way through the town, whilst acting out famous myths and legends. From Robin Hood and St George and the Dragon, to St Michael banishing the Devil or the Spaniards of Mousehole, it’s quite a spectacle.
The full Flora Day experience wouldn’t be complete without trying a pint of Spingo in the Blue Anchor, or heading down to the fair at Coronation Park and trying your hand at hooking a duck whilst eating candy floss - before battling it out on the dodgems.