Sunderland Festival a roaring success

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FROM rallying to hula-hooping, this year’s Sunderland Festival was all about having fun.

And hundreds came out in the hope of doing just that.

Sunderland Festival at Herrington Country Park - rally cars in action

Sunderland Festival at Herrington Country Park - rally cars in action

Dedicated to celebrating 21 years of city status, for 48 hours Herrington Country Park was buzzing with activities for the whole family.

The weekend kicked off in relaxing style on Friday night with an open-air screening of Mamma Mia, where more than 100 fans wrapped up warm and sung along to the Abba soundtrack.

By early Saturday morning, the sun was shining the crowds arrived to see what was on offer.

Dads enjoyed the golf demos, football skills challenge and boxing, while mums showed off their netball and swingball techniques.

Not to be outdone by their parents, the children got the chance to try tag-rugby, table tennis, and American football. Although many headed straight for the fun-fair.

Debbie Parson, along with daughters Lili, eight, and Anni, five, enjoyed a game of swingball.

The 47-year-old, of Silksworth, said: “We stopped off here for a game before heading over to the fun-fair and the big slide.

“To be honest, we didn’t know the Festival was on until we drove past and decided to see what was happening. It’s been a lovely day.”

Food villages, beer tents, and marquees housing exhibitions helped provide cover during the brief rain-showers that interrupted the fun. Emma Harrison, 27, brought daughter Eva, five, along for the afternoon.

While Eva got into the hula-hooping spirit of things, Emma, of Houghton, said: “She’s had a great time and the weather has been canny so far.

“It would be good to see more of this kind of thing in Sunderland, especially up here because this park’s so lovely.

They were sentiments echoed by Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson, who went along to enjoy the day.

He said: “When you look at what this park was like a few years ago, then look at it today, it’s fantastic to see how far we’ve come. Any events that give the people of Sunderland something to enjoy should be celebrated. We have to have ambition, we have to have a ‘can do’ attitude towards putting on events like this.”

One of the Festival’s highlights came on Saturday afternoon when the park’s big screen showed the 1973 FA Cup Final, between Sunderland and Leeds.

Hundreds packed into the screening, including VIP guest and 73 legend, Jimmy Montgomery, whose famous double save got the biggest cheer of the day.

Rally good time

A HIGHLIGHT of this year’s festival came when some of the country’s top rally drivers showed off their skills around a specially installed circuit at the park.

Guests got the chance to experience the adrenaline rush when they were invited take a speedy ride with some of the country’s most elite rally stars.

Earlier this year, the Echo revealed Sky Sports F1 pundit Tony Jardine is spearheading a move to bring a stage of the FIA European Rally Championship to the city.

The Festival provided the perfect opportunity of giving Wearsiders a taste of things to come as drivers sped around the circuit.

Mr Jardine said: “We’re delighted to have been invited this weekend so people on Wearside can see first hand the thrill of rally driving.”

Meetings have taken place between representatives of Mr Jardine and Sunderland Council bosses, who are supporting plans to bring future rally events to Wearside.