A LONG-SERVING festival volunteer who has been coming to Salisbury for 13 years says he first visited by chance and just “put a finger on the map”.

Carl Cooke, from Arizona in the United States of America, regularly volunteers for Salisbury International Arts Festival and this year was no different.

Speaking of how he came to the city the psychology teacher said: “I put a finger on the map in 2006 and that’s what came up.”

His father had been based in England during the Second World War as a pilot and Carl says he has a picture of his father riding a bicycle down an English lane.

He added: “I’d always dreamed of riding a bike around England.”

After hitting on Salisbury as a place to stay he later found out his father was based at an airfield near Norwich. But Carl came across Salisbury Festival in June 2006 when he saw a long queue for the Party in the Close, then the closing night of the festival.

Eight years ago, Carl decided to volunteer for the festival and he has been volunteering as a steward during the festival fortnight ever since.

Carl keeps a bike in Salisbury that he re-uses every year. But for the first few years Carl came to Salisbury he simply left his bike locked up on Platform 2 of Salisbury station.

He said: “I’d come back and every year it was still there. The only thing that happened is that, one year, somebody took my pedals and left their own, inferior pedals, on my bike.”

Carl now says Salisbury is like a second home to him, adding: “When I got off the plane that first time I visited, I just got the feeling that ‘I’m home’. I can’t explain the feeling. So every year I come back.”

This year's event, which ran from May 24 to June 9, saw 42,000 people flocking to the city to enjoy the festival.

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