Christmas lights switch on events in Cheltenham and Bishop's Cleeve
THERE were cheers as Christmas lights switch-ons in Cheltenham signalled the official start of the festive season.
Crowds gathered at ceremonies at the Beechwood Shopping Centre, the Regent Arcade, and the Brewery as bright lights lit up the town centre.
Traders in Bath Road organised their own event, with Santa leading an eye-catching parade amidst a fanfare of music and entertainment.
At The Brewery, hundreds of people turned up to enjoy an after-party on Saturday night where live bands belted out a selection of seasonal tunes.
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One of the organisers said: “We had a stage set up for live acts to perform on and all in all it went very well.
“We had a good turnout and after the lights went on at the shopping centres, people came to us for the after-party.
“It was a great way to start the countdown to Christmas.”
Meanwhile Lizzie Smith, chairwoman of the Bath Road Traders Association, said their switch-on, on Friday evening, had been a roaring success.
“I was really pleased with how it went,” she said.
“We were quite lucky with the weather all things considered and we probably had a turnout of somewhere near 1,000 people.
“We do it mainly for the children but there was a great atmosphere and afterwards the pubs were busy as some of the adults stayed for a drink or two.”
Santa was joined in the parade by Cheltenham Mayor Colin Hay, closely followed by a special burger car provided by Burger Star and a Bugatti belonging to the Independent Eyecare Centre.
Lizzie added that there was a serious point to the annual lights switch-on.
“It marks the start of the Christmas season, which is such an important time for traders,” she said.
“We want to encourage people to buy local and support their shops this Christmas so it was great to have so much support for the lights switch-on.”
Meanwhile it was alright on the night at the Bishop's Cleeve Christmas lights switch-on after a health and safety row failed to stop the event.
Santa appeared on a specially built stage at the top of Tesco's car park and tuned on the lights with a "ho, ho, ho".
There had been doubts the annual celebration would go ahead after the parish council said it may not be safe to supply power for the PA system.
But after the authority and village Chamber of Commerce started pulling in the same direction to resolve the issue, it was given the green light.
A small but hardy crowd of around 30 braved the wind and rain to come and witness the spectacle. Among them was 13-year-old Ellis Hill.
"It was quite cold and very wet, but I'm glad I came along," he said. "The Christmas lights switch-on is always good fun."
It was a far smaller turnout than most years. In the past the event has attracted hundreds of people. Attendees said families may have been put off by the foul weather as well as the uncertainty over whether it would be happening at all.
Peter Badham, vice chairman of the village Chamber of Commerce, said: "We have had difficult conditions this year so it's to be expected that numbers were a little down. But I'm glad the event was able to go ahead.
"We had the issue with the power supply sorted out and the whole episode is probably something we can learn from for next year."