The mayor of Tavistock has welcomed the return of Tavistock’s oldest and best-known social occasion after an absence of three years.

Tavistock Goose Fair takes place on Wednesday, offering feasting and fairground rides, stalls and bright lights.

Dating from the 1100s, it grew up around farming families coming to town to trade their geese, meet up and socialise. It is one of only two in England.

Mayor of Tavistock Cllr Paul Ward said that for people from far and wide, Goose Fair was synonymous with Tavistock.

‘I’m looking forward to it very much indeed,’ he said. ‘It is part of Tavistock isn’t it? It has been part of our history for a very long time and I think people who don’t live in Tavistock think of Goose Fair as Tavistock and visa versa. It is one of those things that makes Tavistock stand out.’

The event, which is run by Tavistock Town Council in partnership with the borough council, has not taken place since 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor continued: ‘In 2020 we didn’t run it then we thought long and hard about whether we could run it last year and in the end decided it would not be safe, but this year we are very happy that it is going ahead.

‘My one regret is that we couldn’t have any geese or poultry in the cattle market this year, because of avian flu, and that is a shame but there is still going to be a lot going on in the livestock market, and we are going to have Butchers’ Hall open.There is going to be an event there.

‘I’m grateful to Rowlands Funfair for supporting us once again and I’m grateful to the traders coming to put on their stuff in town and particularly for the town council and town council staff for all their hard work in organising the event. They were faced with last minute problems with the park and ride transport but that has all been sorted out.’

There have been some changes at this year’s Goose Fair, to give a more ‘artisan’ feel to what is on offer. Many new traders will be selling their wares in smaller pitches than in previous years.

This also proved a challenge to the fair organisers, as they had to find many more traders to let out the same overall event space.

There will be artisan stalls in the car park outside The Guildhall as well as a traditional carousel, while the the Bedford car park will once again host all the fun of the fair.

This year, the Alexander Centre on Plymouth Road will host a food and drink area with seating and entertainment on Wednesday afternoon.

Other changes include the addition of steward marquees at all main access points and the introduction of two drinking water stations provided by South West Water in a bid to discourage single-use plastic water bottles.

The tweaks in the organisation and what is on offer are intended partly to mitigate criticism of the historic fair in recent years for edging towards being rowdy and downmarket. Organisers promised fewer fast-food vans and a ban on ‘drugs’ gear on sale as well as more local food and drink and are trying to encourage participation from local traders.

The feeling among the business community in the town is mixed, with some feeling that the local traders do not benefit as much as travelling traders from the influx of visitors brought in by the annual event.