'MAGIC'. 'Extraordinary'. 'A highlight of the calendar'.

These are just some of the words and phrases used to describe the hugely popular Knutsford Royal May Day festival.

Sadly, despite lockdown restrictions easing over the last few weeks, this year's event will again not take place.

Since it began in 1864, the annual event has been a fixture almost every year and indeed the only times, before the Covid pandemic, when the festival did not take place were during the wars.

Knutsford Guardian: A May Day in the 1860sA May Day in the 1860s

But the Royal May Day still holds a special place in the hearts of the town's residents with many eagerly awaiting its return.

Eileen Podmore, the secretary of the Royal May Day Festival committee, has been involved with the event for decades.

She said: "It is the biggest event in the North West really and is the only Royal May Day in the world that I know of.

Knutsford Guardian:

"We were given a royal charter in 1887 which makes us special and keeps us apart from any other festival.

"We have 600 to 700 children who take part and it is an absolute great pity we can't hold it this year.

"We're all looking forward to the event hopefully returning next year. We will do our best to make it bigger and better.

Knutsford Guardian: 2020 May Queen Lily-May Newall celebrated May Day last year with her family at home2020 May Queen Lily-May Newall celebrated May Day last year with her family at home

"We've gone through sun, rain, sleet, snow. One of the worst years for weather I remember was 1987.

"We were marking the hundred years from the royal charter – it was the most terrible day. It poured and bucketed and then it hailed.

"But the turnout was good, as it always is. When you talk to families, they come back to Knutsford for May Day.

Knutsford Guardian:

"After everything which goes into the May Day is done and seeing thousands of people out in the town, it makes me very proud of the work the committee do.

"When you think of all the work that goes on behind the scenes and then the procession comes past you on the day, you think gosh, how wonderful.

"It means a lot to all the people in the town. Everybody has some connection with it."

Knutsford Guardian:

Businesses in the town also look forward to the May Day celebrations and do their bit to support it.

Julia Chard, who has run Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in King Street for 12 years, always decorates her shop window in red, white and blue for May Day.

She said: "We always close the shop when the parade goes past.

Knutsford Guardian:

"I sit on a stool outside and all the children walk past the shop and give me a little wave. It’s fantastic.

"It is the highlight of the Knutsford calendar."

Helen Dufton runs Arthur Lee Interiors in Toft Road with sister Vicky Wragg.

The shop was opened by their great grandfather Arthur Lee in 1919 and celebrated its centenary last year.

Helen said: "My sister, who is an artist, has drawn a picture of a maypole with children dancing round it in our the window this week with a message that says 'Knutsford May Day we will miss you 2021'.

Knutsford Guardian:

Amy Wilkinson is crowned May Queen in 1921 (Knutsford Hertiage Centre)

"We will put grandma’s old linen bunting up on Saturday.

"We always give one window to the May Day committee who come and decorate it with a maypole and crates from a local farm – the May Queen’s dress usually sits in the window for two weeks running up to May Day.

"We put a mirror behind it with gifts and cards. People love it. It is a tradition we have always been involved in as a family.

"It is a great day. We take chairs and sit outside."

Knutsford Guardian:

The May Day crown in 1921 (Knutsford Heritage Centre)

Peter Murray, who owns Pulse of Perfumery on Princess Street, said: "You feel the magic of the May Day parade.

"I have been dressed up as Queen Marie Antoinette in a frock, we always engage in the atmosphere.

"There is a smile on everybody’s face, whether you’re three or 103. It brings so much joy to Knutsford. It is extraordinary.

"There is a real commitment from all the schools and families.

"Mums and dads must be so proud to see their children dressed up as a tree or a leprechaun. The whole town embraces it."