Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is a modern revival (from 1980) of the ancient fenland custom of making a straw bear for Plough Monday – a man totally covered with a straw costume and led through town ( the costume weighs about 5 stone!).
The weekend starts with a concert on the Friday night and the main events are the procession and dancing on the Saturday and the Burning on the Sunday. The procession is led by the Straw Bear and his keepers and a Plough team pulling the plough, followed by numerous dance groups including morris men and molly, clog and sword dancers, who perform throughout the day at several locations all around the town. Poetry readings and story telling sessions take place indoors and there is a ceilidh in the evening.
On Sunday there are further performances and finally the Bear is ceremonially burnt The procession now contains over 250 dancers, musicians and performers from various parts of the British Isles performing traditional 'Molly', 'Morris', 'Clog' and 'Sword. There is also American style 'Appalachian' dancing, street performances and Mummers plays. A decorated plough pulled by a local Morris side is now a established part of the procession.
In 1999 the Straw Bear made friends with a German Straw Bear from Walldürn near Frankfurt, a town that celebrates its own Straw Bear Festival on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday. Although the festivities begin earlier in the week, the Saturday is the only day on which the 'Bear' makes an appearance before the 'Bear Burning' on the Sunday. This leaves the way open for a new bear to be created from the next season's harvest. http://www.strawbear.org.uk/