SOUTHEND seafront came alive with a riot of colour and music as families flocked to see the largest carnival procession in a decade.

Crowds lined the promenade to watch more than 50 decorated vehicles carry a diverse mix of charities, businesses and community organisations from south Essex from Southchurch Park to Westcliff yesterday evening.

Carnival vice chairman Gemma Cartwright, 30, said: “I’m really excited because for the first time in a few years we have got a really big parade.

“Lots of organisations have come back for the first time in a few years. It’s the biggest it has been in at least a decade.”

Waving to bystanders from her carriage, 17-year-old carnival queen Lauren Green, of Eastwood, said: “It’s brilliant this year. So many people have come to watch it. “I think it’s the best it has ever been. “I come every year and every year it gets better and better.”

Samba drumming from BrazilArte Academy, in Southchurch, mixed with singing from the Funky Voices choir and music from the many other floats. Batons flew through the air as majorettes from across Essex strutted their stuff, followed by members of Pluto Juggling, who were representing the Scouting movement by bouncing around on jumping stilts, known as “powerisers”.

A float from carnival sponsor SummerCare featured service users dressed as farmyard animals.

Lifeboatmen in full kit, including life jackets and helmets, walked as Southend RNLI joined the parade for the first time in several years. Southend West MP David Amess, who judged the entrants, entered a float to promote his campaign for Southend to be recognised as the “alternative” city of culture in 2017.

Waving from an open-top bus in full regalia, Southend mayor Chris Walker said: “It’s marvellous. The energy, spirit and enthusiasm everyone has put in is fantastic.” The procession was briefly held up outside the Genting Casino in Western Esplanade after a girl collapsed.

Mike Pilling, 66, originally from Thorpe Bay, makes the 3,000km journey from Constanta, in Romania, to see the carnival every year. He said: “It’s wonderful. We come every single year.”

Hannah Peek, 39, of Tudor Gardens, Thorpe Bay, had brought her two-year-old son Henry to his first carnival.

She said: “He’s having a great time. It’s really good. “We weren’t expecting it to be so big. “It brings back childhood memories for me.” Angy Sander, of London, happened upon the carnival as she was visiting relatives in Southend. She said: “It’s making me cry. It’s lovely. I’ve never seen it before.” FOR MORE PICTURES AND REACTION SEE TODAY'S ECHO