THE countdown to the start of one of the south coast’s largest events is almost over - the Swanage Carnival and Regatta.

This year’s event, which includes a packed eight-day programme of entertainment, starts on Saturday, July 28, at the Swanage Carnival Showground, better known as Sandpit Field.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to flock to the Victorian seaside town, which for this year has the theme ‘Swanage Goes Safari’.

Sunday, July 29, is the date for the main procession, which is set for a 3pm start.

Snaking its way along a 2.5 mile route through town and along the seafront, this year’s procession will include beach buggies, motorbikes, vintage cars and seven marching bands in with the array of floats.

Then, immediately after the procession at 5pm in the Sandpit Field arena, the ‘Mas Band’ Rampage Carnival Club will perform a short display, showing off their exotic costumes.

More than 100 events will be taking place in Swanage throughout the week, including live music every day.

Attractions set for 2018 include a Swanage Carnival Four Mile Fun Race, at 6.30pm on Thursday, August 2; the Swanage Bay Swim, on Monday, July 30, and the biathlon, on Tuesday, July 31, at 6.30pm.

Fireworks displays take place on both Saturdays and the Wednesday during carnival week.

One person who is especially looking forward to the 2018 Swanage Carnival & Regatta is recently appointed Swanage Carnival Queen Amey Towner.

Amey, aged 15, said she was “very excited” at winning the title, adding: “I’m really looking forward to the whole week but particularly taking part in the procession.”

Meanwhile, a carnival spokesman explained: “The Swanage Regatta & Carnival goes back to the mid 1800s when the first sailing regatta was held in Swanage Bay.

“Several years later, in the early 1900s, a carnival was held to celebrate the finale of the sailing regatta, hence the formation of the regatta and carnival.

“Over the past 40 years, the regatta and carnival has grown into a major south coast attraction, the handful of voluntary members has grown into 60 and there is nearly 100 events organised.

“It is now a non-funded registered company limited by guarantee, and thousands of pounds is given to charity each year.”

Last year’s Swanage Carnival raised £25,600, which was distributed to 25 different charities and good causes.

The chairman’s charity for 2018 is St Mary’s Catholic Primary School.

And other good causes set to benefit this year include the Somerset & Dorset Air Ambulance, Swanage Stroke Club, Swanage Area Dementia Friendly Community, Corfe Castle Football Club, Litter Free Purbeck and the Lewis Manning Hospice.