AS the first Peebles Beltane Festival out of the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s celebrations felt closer to ‘normality’ than in recent years.

The Beltane Committee had promised to bring back the event ‘bigger and better’ than 2022, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

Peebles was buzzing all week and even the small bursts of rain couldn’t dampen spirits.

“It’s been busy, hectic, but fun,” said Beltane Chairman Paul Spence. “Last year people were still nervous, I think.

“There was still a bit of cautiousness last year, but this year there was a lot more enthusiasm and a lot more people wiling to get stuck in.”

The week began on Sunday, June 18, with the Inaugural Service at the old Cross Kirk.

Here Malcolm Jefferson was installed as the Warden of the Cross Kirk.

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Then on Monday the children’s celebrations started with the disco at the Drill Hall for youngster in P3-7.

Events continued on Tuesday with the return of the children’s sports at Whitestone Park.

Cornet’s Lass Ailidh Copeland helped to brighten the rainy evening by serving Caldwell’s ice creams to participants.

Later on Tuesday night the grown ups enjoyed the pub quiz at the rugby club.

Mr Spence said: “We were blessed with the weather except at the kids’ sports.

“Everybody seems to be back in the festival mood and thoroughly enjoying what they were experiencing.”

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On Wednesday Cornet Robert Girdwood then took up his duties of leading the cavalcade through the town before being installed with his Lass on the steps of the Parish Church.

The procession then rode to Neidpath Castle where John Falla was installed as the Warden of Neidpath.

Riders then forded the Tweed for the Riding of the Marches before heading to the golf course for the horse races.

The principals then danced the Cornet’s Reel in the High Street.

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“We get great support from the other Borders festivals, particularly the more local ones – West Linton, Innerleithen,” added Mr Spence.

“Innerleithen, and I hope this never stops, all the principals for this year and the supporting principals always come up on the Wednesday and Saturday and they support our festival.

“It’s just fantastic to see, particularly when they’re not involved in the riding aspect when it comes to their town [festival].

“I did try and encourage them to get on a horse for next year, so we’ll see what happens.”

Youngsters in the town once again joined the festivities for the Novice Ride on Thursday before the Peebles Border Games returned to Whitestone Park (see pages 38-39).

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As Red Letter Day drew closer, supporters of all ages took over the town with their best fancy dress costumes (see pages 24-27).

Full of colour and excitement the big day finally arrived on Saturday.

Beltane Queen Minnie Mitchell and her Court stood in front of the huge crowd at the Parish Church steps where Queen Minnie was officially crowned.

Queen Minnie and her Court were paraded through the town, with large floats following them with all the children taking part in the ceremony.

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Mr Spence added: “I’ve spoken with Robert and Ailidh and to them it’s just fulfilled all their wildest dreams.

“Minnie had a really good supporting cast – First Courtier Struan, Second Courtier Rudi, and Chief Maid Ava – all supported Minnie in what they were doing.

“And all four of them had a fantastic time.”

A poignant Remembrance Service was then held at the County War Memorial, before the bands Beat the Retreat, in what is always an impressive spectacle in the High Street.

This brought the festivities to a close for another unforgettable year of Beltane celebrations.

Roll on next year!