History of the Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza
The Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza was founded in 1986 by Mayor Cllr Margaret Lyons, a small group of local councillors, Stuart Rivers and Ian Turner, under the umbrella of Llandudno Town Council, when it came to their attention that something needed to be done to secure the long term future of the Town’s ailing tourist industry. General consensus of opinion felt that this could be best achieved by an effort to attract visitors to bridge the lull between the traditional peaks in trade of Easter & the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.
Together with a local Heritage Enthusiast Group, the idea of free admission show to attract visitors & trade to local business was born. To maximise the benefit to local commerce, the Event was to be staged on the town centre streets, a format conceived a year earlier at Fleetwood. To take full advantage of the opportunity, the May Day Bank Holiday was chosen as the date & a lavish display of Traditional Entertainment to compliment Llandudno’s outstanding Victorian splendour was to be the method, it included street theatre, maypole dancing in the street, carriage rides, teddy bears picnic in Happy Valley, Sandcastle competition, visit of ‘Queen Victoria’, parade of Victorians, window dressing competition and a Grand Victorian Ball.
A hexagonal stage was put up in Mostyn Street outside the Leeds building society and this was the focal point of the parade, and the arrival of Queen Victoria played by actress Margaret Lacey.
Many, many people dressed in Victorian costume, and strolled the street helping the photographers to get shots for the photographic competition.
A vintage Car rally was held , the highlight of which was a procession around the Marine drive , with a prize for the best car and passengers.
A vintage Motor Bike rally was also held in the town, judged by the Mayor ,outside the committee headquarters at the Clarence Hotel.
Receiving substantial Council grants for the time, & working closely with the voluntary sector, The Extravaganza was so successful it was felt by Llandudno Town Councillors that this event should not be run by the officers of the Council, instead of which a grant would be given each year to help stage this prestigious event, to enable them to do the organisation in a voluntary capacity
Responsibility for staging of the event passed to the Volunteer Committee who formed Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza Ltd. which has continued to organise the Show to present day.
As Council backing diminished, the Committee sought other ways of raising the finance to stage the free admission show. This took the form of a sister event on Bodafon Fields for which a gate fee could be charged to support the free show in the Town. The scale of this overall event proved too much to organise by volunteers alone, & the field event was developed by local transport enthusiasts as the Llandudno Transport Festival.
At this time The Extravaganza had sufficient attendance to attract the attention of modern funfair operators. Changes to the Committee left them with little choice to allow the Heritage focus to be diluted by the ingress of modern fairground attractions offering substantial payment to attend. This dilution peaked in 2006 when public opinion said that the whole event had become nothing more than a modern street fair, squeezing out the Traditional Entertainment that carried popular support.