DUST off your flags, whistles and pom poms and join at least 20,000 people expected to line the streets of Southend next week to soak up the celebratory, colourful atmosphere of the time-honoured carnival procession, helping to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

A host of other highlights also return under the Southend Carnival Events banner - including the three day beer festival - leading up to the big day.

The Southend Carnival procession, which has been a major annual tradition in town since it began in 1906, sets off on Saturday August 18 at 6.45pm from Southchurch Park.

It will reach City Beach on the seafront at 7.30pm and finish on the seafront at Shorefield Road at approximately 9pm.

Around 60 floats and acts will take part, including anything from majorette displays, marching pipe bands, with the popular Rampage Mas Band in their extravagant costumes and riot of colours bringing up the rear.

Echo: Town crier Keith Davidson last year

Kicking off the celebrations prior to the procession itself, is a beer festival taking place from Friday, August 10 until Sunday, August 12, at West Leigh School, Ronald Hill Grove, Leigh. Not only can the community enjoy a range of products from south Essex breweries, but the event raises funds towards the carnival itself.

On the Sunday, there will also be a host of fun activities for children to get involved with, so parents can enjoy a drink in the sunshine too.

Also on Sunday, August 12, will be a dog show held at Priory Park, Southend, from 11am, run in conjunction with the Southend Canine Society and Metro Bank.

It is open to all dogs, from pedigree show pooches to family pets.

The fun continues on Wednesday, August 15 with children’s day held in Priory Park, featuring inflatables, face painting, children’s sports activities and fun play-workshop events, as well as a fancy dress competition.

Dan Turpin, vice chair of the Southend Carnival organisation, has been involved in the proceedings for eight years.

He said: "I used to love watching the carnival myself as a child with my mum and dad, and I think it's that tradition, that history, that made me want to get involved in keeping it alive.

"It's so important to Southend and is such a great event. So many of the floats keep their theme top secret, so we never quite know what we are going to see until the day, which is fun.

"We have lots of floats returning as well as some new acts taking place, such as the Colchester Pipe Band, who are entering for the first time."

The carnival supports a large number of charitable organisations with each of the 60 floats in the procession collecting money.

Dan explained the businesses and groups which enter, get to collect money for their own chosen charities.

Echo: Southend Carnival .Friars school Shoebury cheerleaders.

"It works in the way they pay to enter the procession, therefore getting to advertise their business to the 20,000-30,000 people who come to watch, and get to raise money for the charity of their own choice while doing so" he explained.

The carnival procession, which costs about £18,000 to run each year, is supported by sponsorship from a number of huge brands including rail operators c2c and Greater Anglia, the Gleneagles Guesthouse, and Olympus.

The first Southend Carnival was in 1906 as part of an annual regatta to raise funds for Southend Victoria Cottage Hospital in Warrior Square.

In 1926 Southend Carnival Association was formed and the procession continued to support the hospital and included horse-drawn floats.

By 1930, the carnival became a full week of events raising funds a new General Hospital. There was a children’s fancy dress parade, Beautiful Toddlers competition, circus and fete in Chalkwell Park, All Sorts dog show, 'beautiful legs' parade, daylight and torchlight processions on the final day of the carnival attended by Southend Carnival Court.

In the early 40s, the carnival helped British Service men and women. It returned in 1946 with a one-day event at the Kursaal Amusement Park.

From 1946-69 Southend Carnival raised £90,000 for Southend Hospitals and other Southend charities. In the 1950’s, the Carnival Estate which provides subsided accommodation for vulnerable older people was established in Leigh.

Echo: Rampage - a firm favourite in the Southend Carnival

In the 70s and 80s local businesses supported the carnival, via sponsorship or entering the procession. By the 90s, interest and participation in the events began to decline and prompted the decision to stop holding the daylight procession, instead raising the profile of the illuminated procession.

By 2000 the carnival had brought an estimated £3 million of business into the town and invested more than £10 million (in real terms) to the local voluntary community.

In 2014 the carnival became the biggest community event in Southend gaining support from many local businesses and introduced new events including a steam fair and beer festival throughout the year, and has continued to develop into the spectacular affair it is today.

Visit southendcarnivalevents.org.uk for more information.