LESS than 24 hours remain for what promises to be an epic two days of Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide.
The shops are being boarded up, film crews have descended and the leisure centre's main hall is nearly ready for the lunch guests. All the town needs now are the Up'ards and the Down'ards.
Proceedings will begin tomorrow with the official Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide luncheon, with guests asked to arrive between 11.30pm and noon and the turner-up for the day, Stuart Lees, will be carried to the Shaw Croft plinth in time to start the game at 2pm.
Play will continue until 5pm, which the players will be keeping a close eye on as, if they can score before the cut-off they will have another chance at a goal.
Should they score at either Sturston or Clifton Mill before 10pm, but after the 5pm cut-off, the game will come to a close. If there are no goals by 10pm officials will draw a close to the game.
Crowds this year are expected to run well into the thousands, with the promise of good weather likely to entice more people than ever before to see the annual spectacle.
Weather watcher Martin Harris, who issues forecasts to nearly 10,000 people on his successful Facebook page Weather Update Derby, says this year is looking to benefit from improving weather.
He said: "The jet stream looks to be moving towards the northern part of the UK, this will allow all the warmer air from the continent to move upto the UK, with high pressure edging up from France.
"This means the weather will be fine and dry with calm conditions and plenty of sunshine mid-week, just in time for the famous Shrovetide football.
"Temperatures will be far more comfortable to go playing in rivers, last year it was around two degrees, this year the Shrovetide will be up in double figures around 11C."
The Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football Committee has issued a plea to players and followers to respect the marshals during the game.
The committee has been putting the finishing touches to its strategy for ensuring the game’s safety this year, which relies more heavily than ever on its loyal network of volunteer marshals, without which Shrovetide could not take place.
Committee secretary Mick Betteridge said: “Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football Committee are looking forward to what they hope will be a successful and enjoyable two days.
“The last few years have witnessed good support for Shrovetide marshals. They help the police, players and the supporters to enjoy the ‘old game’.
“It is the wish of the committee that everyone will listen to, and abide by their advice.
“Without the marshals the games could not take place.
“It is in everyone’s best interest to wholeheartedly support them.”
Mr Betteridge has also re-iterated the official ‘rules'.
• No play in the church yard, cemetery, memorial gardens or other places of worship.
• No play in the new St Oswald’s Hospital.
• No conveying of the ball by any vehicle.
• No building sites are to be entered in any part of the town.
• No hiding the ball, so it is out of play.
• Respect other people’s property.
• No dummy balls.
Players, supporters, spectators and public-safety measures.
• Abide by the advice of police and marshals.
• Park vehicles safely and away from regular areas of play.
• Parents with children are to be responsible for their safety - especially with pushchairs.
• Players are to ‘back –off’ when the ‘hug’ collapses. to help avoid ‘crush’ injuries.
Players are also being encouraged to arrange their own insurance policies