The very first water carnival was the Lifeboat Saturday Demonstration held on 27th July 1895, when a lifeboat launched on the Lake was watched by a huge crowd, and a collection was made to raise funds for the Lifeboat. On this occasion the Council did not agree to a request to close the Park and charge for admission.
In September 1899 permission was granted to hold an Aquatic Carnival on the Lake and a mile amateur championship swimming race, subject to proper costumes being worn. Requests were turned down from the YMCA in 1905 and 1908 to hold aquatic sports on the Lake and to charge for reserved seating.
Bathing boxes were provided from 1908, making organised water sports and carnivals feasible. In 1909 came a proposal from the Cardiff Police Swimming & Athletic Club for an Aquatic Gala in aid of the Police and Fire Brigade Orphans Fund. Permission was granted to make a charge for entry to the Lake and Botanic Garden, with 25% of the gate money to be handed over to the Corporation. The event was a success, attracting 10,000 visitors and generating £60 for the Council as a share of the admission charge, but it highlighted the need for a temporary grandstand that could be erected on the Embankment to allow spectators a reasonable view.
In 1910 a floating bandstand was provided and a movable grandstand on the Lake Embankment. Three galas were held in 1910, but with mixed success owing to variable weather. The YMCA event on July 13th was a great success, owing to very good weather and the additional attraction of an airship. Ernest Willows flew his airship to the Lake, descended and moored for twenty minutes before ascending again and returning to his East Moors base.
For several subsequent years occasional water carnivals were a summer attraction. In 1920 and 1921 the Taff Amateur Rowing Club was allowed use of the Lake for a regatta, closing the Botanic Garden and making an admission charge, which it shared equally with the Corporation. In response to a growing view that it was not acceptable to restrict access to the Park and make charges in this way it was decided that in future the Corporation would hold galas featuring boating, swimming and rowing, with admission charges and prizes. Three such events were held in 1922, 1923 and 1924 but all failed financially and after the Town Clerk ruled that the Corporation had no powers to spend money on regattas, no more were held.
In the 1950s and 1960s regattas were regularly privately organised with the Council's permission. The Festival of Britain Committee was granted use of the lake for a regatta to take place on 2nd June 1951. The South Wales Sea Scouts held a regatta there on 27th June 1952, while in 1953 there was a water carnival arranged for the 4th July as part of the Coronation celebrations and another Sea Scouts regatta on 12th September. The Council also organised its own events in July 1954, 1955 and 1956. In 1958 a water carnival was arranged for the 24th May by the British Empire Games Organisation to promote the games held in Cardiff that year. For these events a stand providing tiered seating for 1000 spectators could be erected on the Promenade. In 1962 the Cardiff Round Table was given permission to hold a water carnival at the lake on the 11th August, and this was repeated in subsequent years, for example 1965 and 1970.
Sources of Information
In general, the information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew, The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff, Volume 3.
Other sources are: