BOATING enthusiasts from across the country will head to Evesham this weekend for the annual river festival.

The festival, which is being held on Saturday and Sunday, has added significance this year as it is the 50th anniversary of the river Avon being opened to the sea.

To mark the occasion, on Saturday a flotilla will make its way from Wyre Piddle to Cropthorne watergate, just below the Jubilee Bridge in Fladbury – the site where a ribbon was cut by Betty Barwell to declare the navigation open on June 10, 1962.

After a ribbon is cut to reenact the historic events at Fladbury, the flotilla will arrive at Workman Gardens in Evesham at 12.30pm to be greeted by Evesham mayor Robert Raphael, who will declare the festival open.

Among the boats in the flotilla is the Aviona, which was also part of the opening event in 1962. The owners have been invited to attend by organisers Terry Smith and Jackie Bailey, who have had a race against time to get their boat Majessa ready for the big day.

Mr Smith said: “We are especially looking forward to this year’s celebrations as for the last six months we have been involved in researching the archive of the first event in 1962.”

In another milestone, the Evesham River Festival is 25 years old this year and there is a wide range of entertainment planned to celebrate.

Bretforton Silver Band are playing as well as the Mikron theatre, which will perform Losing the Plot on a boat.

Famous faces such as Timothy Spall, David Suchet and Toyah Willcox are expected to attend and stalls and entertainment will be on the riverside throughout.

One of the highlights comes on Saturday evening with the eye-catching illuminated boat parade and fireworks display.