There’s the world, and then there’s Appleby.

Appleby as in the annual Appleby Horse Fair, where thousands of Irish travelers and gypsies gather in north-west England for the rare pleasure of being not shunned by communities, but embraced.

“When we come to a place like Appleby Fair and sit around the campfires, it gives a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of ancestry,” said Billy Welch, organizer. “We feel during that week that we are really at home.”

Life has never been easy in England for Irish travelers or for Gypsies, as many still refer to themselves (elsewhere, many view the term as pejorative and prefer Roma or Roma).

Both originated as nomadic groups many centuries ago, with the Romany migrating to Europe from northern India and the Travelers appearing in what is now Ireland. In England, Appleby connected the community year after year.

The fair’s roots trace back to the 1700s, when traders from across Britain began setting up camp every June in the rural Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland. And for all the trappings the fair has taken on since then, horses remain the stars.

They are bathed in the River Eden. They are raced through the streets and paraded with fanfare — the “Flash,” it’s called. They are still bought and sold.

“I’ve been coming all my life, since I was little, and my family has been for generations, buying and selling horses,” said Riley Gaskin, 26, from Derby. “It’s vacation and business all wrapped into one.”

The families of many fairgoers have made England their home for hundreds of years. But life was often difficult.

Poverty and poor health are widespread, and many communities are openly hostile to their camps. Even “sedentary” gypsies – those who have given up the road – face discrimination.

“People are telling us to go back to where we come from,” said Mr. Welch, the fair’s organizer. “My family has been in Darlington for decades and we still get that now.”

And it’s getting worse, they say.

Sophie-Lee Hamilton and her partner, Tom Smith, said their trailer was attacked on the side of the road – once when Ms Hamilton was alone with their three young children.

“They try to stop Appleby every year,” Mr Smith said, “but everyone would still turn up.”

During the festival, Appleby, a town of 3,228, suddenly finds itself as host to an incredible 30,000 visitors.

And it can be a tough party crowd.

“We can feel the atmosphere change if there’s going to be trouble,” said Ruth Harper, a police officer.

The fair has little in the way of formal organization, and Kevin Hope, a visitor from Darlington, acknowledged that there can be misbehavior. “Wherever you get good guys, you get bad guys, but we’re all tarred with the same brush,” he said.

Some businesses close during the five days of the fair, and some residents are openly unhappy about it.

But Constable Harper said she was looking forward to the fair. Using an Irish word for fun when the festivities ended one evening, she said: “The whole day, everyone was really happy. It was really cool, really good craic.”

When Mr. Hope first came to Appleby, he was so small he could fit in a fruit box. “I first came in here in an orange box,” he said, “in the front of an iron-clad wagon with an arched top.”

He is now 60 years old, but families still bring children to the fair, often dressed in traditional clothing.

Mr. Welch gestured to children playing nearby.

“If you said to these: ‘Do you want to go to Disneyland or do you want to go to Appleby?’ there would be no contest.”

For some who spend much of the year resigned to the conventions of the modern world, the Appleby fair is an opportunity to live out their traditions.

Those who own the traditionally green-painted carts take them out of storage for the journey, which can last several weeks. It is a decision both sentimental and strategic.

“You don’t get the abuse with a cart that you would on a trailer,” said Becky Lumb, 35., who traveled to the fair of Bradford, in northern England. “People see that there is a tradition and a love for it.”

Once at the fair, they set up tents and look for friends and relatives they may not have seen since the previous year.

Some tend to look at the horses. Others – teenagers, mainly – are more eager to look at each other.

More than one romance has been born amid the wagons, trailers and tents that dot Appleby’s field every June, and so the younger participants often don’t venture out until they get their outfit just right. But there is no rush: The days are long, and so are the evenings.

Sometimes, even the weather cooperates.

“It was a lovely fair,” said Mr Hope as this year’s Appleby drew to a close. “It was a little hot, but it’s a lot better hot than wet.”

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