A sadly declining tradition in much of Britain.
Time was that the highlight of the village/town social calendar was the Fete (pronounced [feht], since the word used to be French). It was often organized as a fund raiser for the local church (those old roofs always seem to need patching up) or other local concerns. Run by a mostly self-appointed committee of self-important members of residents associations, the WI and other organizations with reasons to want to seem pro the local area.
Attractions seen at village fetes include raffles, coconut shies, bat a rat stalls, white elephant stalls (that is to say stalls that sell all kinds of miscellaneous oddities that got donated because their owner doesn't want them. People with good memories who run these can often spot the same odd little statues, etc. year after year), cakes, and home produce such as jam and pickles. Entertainment could include morris dancing, sword dancing, mummers
plays, tug of war, fancy dress, pet shows, baking competitions, flower arranging competitions, sack races, egg and spoon races, Stock Punishment
for humorous purposes, barbecues and other over priced food...
As with most similar events, especially because they are often held on Bank Holidays
they tend to get rained out.
May Day often features one of these in villages and neighbourhoods around the country, known as the May Fair and involving all the things above plus a local girl being crowned May Queen and groups of local children (often Brownies or Cub Scouts) doing intricate ribbon dances around a maypole. Primary schools will also have a maypole and the children get an afternoon off to celebrate, with the older children (9-11) dancing.
There are also school fetes as well. In Scotland, they tend to be called "Fairs" or more commonly, "Gala Days" (pronounced "Gah-la" rather than "Gay-la")note
. These are paid for by the PTA, while, paradoxically, the day's profits support them in the future.
Have a tendency to be much more fun than they sound.note