ONE of Hampshire's biggest carnivals has been cancelled for only the second time in its near-100-year history.

Ringwood Carnival was not due to take place until September but has fallen victim to social distancing rules imposed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Organisers have vowed that the event will be back next year and have already set a date - September 18.

Announcing the cancellation of this year's celebration, carnival spokeswoman Alix Gardner said the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone associated with the festivities was the main priority.

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She added: "We know many will be disappointed there will be no carnival day this year and for most this will be the first year there is no procession through the town in their lifetime.

"As far as we know the carnival has only had to cancel once in its nearly 100-year history - for the Second World War.

"Members of the Ringwood Carnival committee and trustees of our charity would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support. We look forward to planning and seeing you all at next year's event."

Several people have taken to social media to voice their disappointment at the decision to scrap this year's celebration.

In a message to the organisers Jim Stride said: "I sincerely salute you for everything you do. Your event brings our community out to celebrate together.

"Please be assured that 2021 will probably be the biggest carnival ever because Ringwoodians will demonstrate the force of our truly wonderful community spirit."

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Alan Lodge said the cancellation of this year's event was "disappointing but understandable".

He added: "Me and my mum have loved being in the carnival year after year and for it to be a no-show this year is very difficult. We had the idea of being Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally in the procession."

Ringwood's first carnival took place in 1928 and was staged to fund the purchase of a field as well as supporting the Royal Victoria & West Hants Hospital.

As reported in the Daily Echo another major event in the Ringwood area - the Ellingham Show - has also been cancelled.