SOUTHEND’S carnival court has been crowned, kickstarting a packed programme of events to mark the annual summer celebration.

Queen Lauren Green, 13, from Westcliff and her princesses Courtney Cook, 14, also from Westcliff and Bethany Gray, 13, fromShoebury took centre stage for a ceremony at the Park Inn Palace Hotel in Eastern Esplanade, Southend.

This year it starts on Thursday, August 7, with the Chalkwell Park Fair and culminates in the parade along the seafront on Saturday, August 16.

The ten-day fair will raise money for the carnival, with three evenings of half-price rides andamorning dedicated to people with special needs.

Speaking after the launch ceremony, Dan Turpin, a carnival association trustee, said: “It was really good. There was a real buzz to get the carnival up and running. Members of the community were there along with all our sponsors.

“We will be using a different route this year for the parade, going from Southchurch Park to Westcliff. There will be a whole lot of events in the week up to the parade, including a dog show on August 10, a junior prince and princess competition on August 12 and junior events on August 13.

“We’re really happy we have got an area accessible to everyone this year at City Beach.

There will be a raised platform there so that everyone can see, thanks to our sponsors.”

This year, for the first time, community and not-for-profit groups can collect money for themselves at the carnival procession on August 16.

Garry Lowen, chairman of the carnival committee, said, “We recognise the tough market conditions the charitable sector is operating in. Therefore, we wanted to find a way of supporting the many charities who do such vital work, supporting our community.

“We are opening the opportunity for any charity, community or not-for-profit group entering the procession or any person collecting for a registered charity to retain the money they collect in return for a small entry fee to support our costs of staging the event.”

Care provider SummerCare will sponsor the carnival for the next three years.

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