THOUSANDS of people crowded into Newport today for the annual Big Splash festival in the city centre and along the banks of the Usk.

Events were put on in four ‘zones’ around the city, with many congregating around the Riverfront theatre where there was street theatre, hair and make-up demonstrations, aerial dance displays and more.

Children took advantage of the ice cream vans on offer while some of the adults chose a cold beer instead.

Street performer Thea Soltau, riding her ‘dodo’ Amelia, said: “We have come from West Yorkshire just for this. We’re having so much fun, it’s brilliant. Everyone is really friendly; they’re acting like they’re used to seeing this sort of thing all the time. Newport is the first outing these dodos have had after 400 years of extinction.”

Chris Evans, councillor for Rogerstone, said: “It’s absolutely brilliant. There was some question a while ago about whether events were needed. They are good for business, good for the feel-good factor, good for children. I think it’s a sign of a grown-up city that we can have a smile once in a while. This is Newport at its best in all its beautiful diversity. It’s something to be really proud of.”

Sue Burke, 45, from Marshfield, came to the festival with her husband Paul and children Tom and Erin. She watched Tom play clarinet in a wind band and then they followed the parade through the town. “It brings people into the centre,” Mrs Burke said. “We had balloon models done by the Body Shop where the parade started and the children helped escort the whale.”

A mosaic whale designed by local children at the Project Space paraded through town before finishing up at the Red Wave, where it was christened Mosy.

Later that afternoon a mass hula hoop took place, with many children using hoops they had designed earlier at a workshop put on as part of the festival.

Tina and Gary Williams came into Newport on the train from Chepstow for the festival, after enjoying it last year. Mrs Williams, 43, said: “We’re enjoying it; we’re going to go on the fairground.” She said the ‘Parklife’ zone in Rodney Parade was a highlight she remembered from the previous year.

Later this evening there will be a ‘Sunset Spectacular’ fireworks display at 9.30pm the Red Wave, while live music will continue throughout the evening. Tomorrow Rodney Parade will open from 11am until 4pm with bouncy castles, a Scramble Net Challenge and sports and games. The fairground, on the River Walkway near the Riverfront, will be running again tomorrow from 12pm until 6pm.

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