THOUSANDS of cheering families welcomed the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton Relay to Congleton.
They flocked to enjoy a community event marking a milestone in the town’s history as the only non-city in England selected to host the baton on its epic journey to Glasgow.
Bearers Jane Whetnall and Ann Brightwell, chosen for their commitment to local sport, made two laps of Congleton Park after the baton – containing a secret good luck message from the Queen – arrived by police escort from its earlier stop in Manchester.
Everybody, the new charitable organisation set up to run leisure services in Cheshire East, helped commemorate the day with a festival of sport, games and music.
Chief executive Peter Hartwell said:
This was another great day for Congleton. People turned out in force to celebrate the arrival of the Queen’s Commonwealth Games Baton, exactly two years on from welcoming the Olympic Torch. Once again, the people of Congleton responded magnificently with thousands taking advantage of the warm weather to join in and have fun.
Leisure staff staged a wide range of sport-related activities to encourage a healthy lifestyle with families enjoying taster sessions at Congleton Leisure Centre and fun sport in the park.
The event was by ticket only and thousands were snapped up in advance. Organisers say some 10,000 people got into the spirit of the day. He added:
There were so many activity displays, taster sessions, demonstrations and coaching opportunities going on involving thousands of people of all ages and abilities. I cannot help but think we will have done so much in a single day to encourage greater participation in sport at any level for years to come, and who knows, inspired an elite athlete or sporting star for the future.
A parade of 350 schoolchildren followed Olympic gold medalist Ann Brightwell, nee Packer, 72, from Congleton on her lap round the park.
Mrs Whetnall, a co-founder of the Cheshire Academy in Crewe, was followed by the Athlete Performance Academy. She said:
I don’t think the day could have gone any better. There were thousands of families, from tiny tots to a lady about to turn 102 and has seen every Baton Relay. Everyone was having a go at range of sports and cheered the baton on all the time. I was honoured to have been a bearer.
Also helping to mark the day were Commonwealth waterpolo gold medalists Rosie Huck and Lauren Tasker who visited Dane Valley Swimming Club to assist with their training.
Cheshire East Care and Health in the Community Portfolio Holder Janet Clowes said:
Saturday was the culmination of the joint efforts of a wide range of community agencies and volunteers. Cheshire East Council, together with Everybody Sport & Recreation, Congleton Town Council, schools and over 100 local community groups worked hard to create a wonderful welcome for the Queen’s Baton to England after its international journey of the past three months. We were delighted that Congleton was chosen for this part of the Baton Relay. This privilege inspired local people to engage in sport and the Games in a unique way.
Before reaching Congleton, the baton had visited 63 Commonwealth nations helping to create an international buzz about the Games taking place in July.
For a gallery of pictures from the day visit the Everybody Leisure Gallery on Flickr