Crowds Gather at Stonehenge to Celebrate Summer Solstice for First Time Since Pandemic Began

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Crowds Gather at Stonehenge to Celebrate Summer Solstice for First Time Since Pandemic Began

Thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge on Tuesday to celebrate the summer solstice for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Roughly 6,000 people turned out for Tuesday's event at the landmark in Wiltshire, England, according to a news release from Wiltshire police. Despite some heavy traffic and two arrests, Superintendent Phil Staynings said Tuesday's event went off "with no major incidents."

"This year's Summer Solstice — the first one celebrated as a public gathering at Stonehenge in three years — has been a success on many levels," Staynings said in the news release.

On Facebook, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon thanked those who attended Tuesday's event for making it a pleasant experience.

"Thank you to everyone who helped to make the #SummerSolstice2022 peaceful and safe including Wiltshire Police and English Heritage," they wrote alongside photos from the gathering.

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Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon/Facebook Stonehenge

Stonehenge is believed to have been built around 5,000 years ago, according to English Heritage, which cares for Stonehenge and more than 400 other historic sites across England. The famed stones are aligned in a way that allows the sun's rays to flow the center of the site on the summer and winter solstices.

Crowds have gathered at the major landmark for years, but were unable to do so for two years due to restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuesday marked the first gathering at Stonehenge for the summer solstice since the pandemic began in 2020.

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Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon/Facebook Stonehenge

Tim, who traveled from London with his daughter Tameya and son Tim Jr. to experience the celebration, told BBC News that the event was "lovely." He previously brought his children to Stonehenge "four or five years ago" when they were younger.

Tameya said, "It's good to be back," adding, "It's interesting that so many people care to come, it's not just you, a lot of other people appreciate being here as well. It's nice."

"It's been a good experience," her father told the outlet. "The whole energy of the space is good."

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon/Facebook Stonehenge

David, a Canadian man, shared similar sentiments about the event. "The energy, the atmosphere here, you knew it would be spectacular," he explained, "but once you're here it's something different."

Kate, who is also Canadian, celebrated her 21st birthday at Tuesday's event. She and David arrived in the U.K. on Monday ahead of the solstice celebration, BBC News reported.

"It's been a crazy 24 hours and it's also my birthday today. It's my 21st on the 21st which was our reason to come here," said Kate, who was visiting Stonehenge for the first time in her life.

"I saw a video about this festival in high school," she told the outlet, "and thought it would be the coolest thing to go, to seeing as summer solstice was on my birthday."

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Only two arrests were made throughout the celebration, according to Wiltshire police.

Officials arrested a 49-year-old man, of the London area, "on suspicion of common assault" and a 41-year-old man from Trowbridge on suspicion of drug possession "with intent to supply." Both were not identified by authorities and remain in custody, per Tuesday's release.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon/Facebook Stonehenge

"It's good news that only two arrests were made," Staynings said, "showing that the good relationship we have with our partners, including English Heritage at Stonehenge and the National Trust at Avebury, does work to make large scale events like this run smoothly."

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English Heritage site manager Heather Sebire told BBC News that it was "fantastic to be able to welcome everybody back again" at Stonehenge for the summer solstice.

"There are people who are modern day druids and pagan groups who treat this as a place of worship," Sebire said.