MAYOR Ray Sanderson was greeted by crowds when he joined thousands of German revellers celebrating the founding of their city by a monk from Malmesbury.

Lullusfest, the oldest folk festival in Germany, marked its 1,160th birthday last week and 26 years after the first tentative invitation was made to Malmesbury, Ray found himself parading with the city’s civic leaders in a three-hour parade through the packed streets of Bad Hersfeld.

“It was overwhelming,” he told the Standard.

Founded more than 1,275 years ago, the city still reveres St Lullus, who left Malmesbury in the 730s on a mission to convert the German tribes to Christianity.

Ray was staggered by the right royal treatment from his hosts. “They couldn’t have given me better treatment if I was the Queen,” he said.

He was even given a driver and escort to reach the festivities.

“There were crowds of people thronging the streets, they needed me to arrive at the civic centre, safely and not stressed, so phrases like “make way for the Mayor of Malmesbury” echoed around the streets.”

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people lined the route for the procession, with more than 70 floats, bands and dancers.

Ray, who walked behind Bad Hersfeld Mayor Thomas Fehling, was stopped repeatedly to have his picture taken with locals.

News of his involvement even spread to Frankfurt as he discovered on his way through airport security two days later. “The officer said: ‘Thanks for coming. I recognised you from the news bulletin last night.’”

He returned to Malmesbury fired with the idea of creating closer links between Malmesbury and the historic city which was saved from destruction at the end of the Second World War.

A trip is already being planned to take part in next October’s festival.