QUINTESSENTIALLY English traditions, sprinkled with more than a little eccentricity sparked off an enthusiastic launch to this year's British Asparagus Festival in the Vale on St George's Day with a special guest crossing the Atlantic to take part.

Thirteen-year-old American children's TV star Chase Bailey, who has his own cookery show in the USA, flew from California with his mother, Mary, to cook his own bruschetta recipe using first cut asparagus grown in the Vale for guests and local schoolchildren to enjoy.

He was particularly taken with the Pebworth Morris Dancers and the Asum Gras Molly dancers who provided a musical and dancing spectacular for the crowd who had gathered at the 600-year-old National Trust-owned Fleece Inn, in Bretforton.

Landlord Nigel Smith, a member of the Morris dance group and chairman of the Asparagus Festival Community Interest Company, said the launch of the festival was a great atmosphere and was always welcomed with enthusiasm.

"It is good to see so many people take part and enjoy the festivities and we are looking forward to handing over the first round of asparagus - known locally as gras - to the Lord May or Leicester," he said.

The vegetable, bound into approximately 120 spears, is being carried on a Royal Worcester porcelain plate in a Morgan car that was built in Malvern and owned by Dave Shaw, the factory's tour guide. Responsible for handing over the round will be Lynne Duffy, chairman of Wychavon District Council.

Helping with the ceremony was Trevor Harrison, who plays Eddy Grundy in BBC Radio 4's serial, The Archers, and who lives in the Vale near Upton on Severn.

He told the Journal.

"It has been a really good turn out for something so typically Worcestershire. Asparagus is an important part of the area and I have enjoyed being part of it. The Archers focuses on farming and agriculture so I have a particular interest. It also enjoy to see local traditions being kept alive within a community."

April 23 is now considered the official start of the British asparagus season and the festival – originally known as the Vale Asparagus Festival – first started in 2006.

The English Asparagus Run sees the first cut spears taken to a different venue each year with Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Stratford-upon-Avon among the destinations. Last year there was a treasure hunt in vintage cars which ended at Broadway Tower.

This year is the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Evesham which marked the defeat and death of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. Evesham Town Crier John Raphael dressed as Simon de Montford, read out his own treaty at the launch and was among the party going to meet the Lord Mayor.

American chef Chase said he was enjoying his time in England but the weather was a bit cold. However he said he was pleased that everyone enjoyed the breakfast bruschetta he had made.

There were the familiar faces of Gus the Asparagusman - Austin Agg, Eve the Asparafairy who is otherwise known as John Jenkinson of the Evesham Hotel, and Tony Haines who played the part of Saint George.

Songs were performed by Fleece regular Bill Pullen, from Alderton, Vale singer and songwriter Colin Pitts, and Evesham's swing-jazz singer Betsy Harmony.

Also present was the managing director of Wychavon District Council, Jack Hegarty, and Evesham Mayor Charlie Homer.

They were entertained by singing from the children of Bretforton First School.