THOUSANDS of families enjoyed a festive extravaganza in Leek on Friday as the town’s Christmas illuminations were switched on.
The celebrations in Leek town centre for this year’s event saw two real life reindeers leading Santa on his sleigh through the parade down Derby Street.
Also joining the parade were schoolchildren and their families, local dignitaries, the Haregate Dance Crew and the Buxton Billerettes, as well as the Staffordshire Moorlands Youth Band and The Longton Scout Band.
Leek Mayor John Fisher and his wife Pat carried out the official switching on of the town’s illuminations with the help of 10-yearold Dom Hough, who attends Springfield Special School, and Chloe Davidson, aged four, who attends Horton Lodge Special School.
Santa's Grotto at the Post & Times in the Smithfield Centre was a popular attraction, as too were the fairground rides in High Street Car Park. The entertainment for the evening, from a stage on the public realm area of Derby Street, was provided by the Salvation Army, The Young Phoenix, Biddulph band Wickenstones, and Dominic ‘Chuck Berry’ Cooper and Combo.
The evening was compered by Moorlands Radio presenter and- Post & Times columnist Gary Shenton.
Buskers Mel and Bones also provided musical entertainment at the bottom of the Market Place.
Visitors to the town centre enjoyed browsing more than 40 Totally Locally stalls in the Market Place, and also had the chance of taking part in games and activities which were hosted by many charity and community organisations from their stalls along Derby Street Trinity Church hosted an indoor Christmas Market in aid of SWIM and many shops around the town stayed open during the festivities including those in Getliffe’s Yard, where extra activities were also organised.
Councillor Barry Cowie, who heads Leek Town Council’s Events Committee, said of the evening: “I reckon we had in the region of 10,000 people in town for the event, which was great.
“The weather was kind to us and thanks must go to everyone who has been involved in the organising and running of the event – in particular the volunteers of the Events Committee who did an absolutely marvellous job.
“The reindeers were a huge success and we hope to bring them back again for next year’s event.” Leek Mayor John Fisher added: “I think the turnout was excellent and the entertainment was brilliant.” Visiting Mayor of Ashbourne, Steve Ball, said: “This is my second year of attending the Leek lights event as Mayor and I think it has been absolutely wonderful.”
Here are some of your thoughts from the switch-on event...
Rhianna Millgate, aged five, of Leek, said: "I have enjoyed the event. The best bit for me was buying a Dora The Explorer Balloon and I was very excited about seeing the reindeers."
Bev Whittaker, from Leek, said: "It's been brilliant with lots of things for all the family to do.
"I think the reindeer being part of the celebrations was the best part of the evening - especially as it was something new for the event."
Patricia Harris, from Longsdon, attended the event with her husband and their granddaughter. Patricia said: "Apart from the flashing lights toys being sold by street vendors being very over priced - some for as much as £8 - I think the event has been brilliant and wellorganised.
“However, I do miss the Continental Market we had at this event a few years ago. I think that should be brought back."
The following comments are taken from the Post & Times’ Facebook page...
Samantha Brown said: "It was fantastic and there was a lovely friendly atmosphere."
Alan Ward said: "Perhaps all the moaning letter writers saying that Leek is finished should have visited tonight and seen for themselves what a lively, vibrant happy town Leek is and feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves."
David Clarke said: "I was there.
Jane Clowes said: "It was a great night, so many people, so many lovely stalls. Got a few gifts and then ended up at Gettliffe's for a lovely meal with our friends and family."
Titch and Stitch said: "We travelled from Newcastle-under- Lyme for the lights switch on and it was well worth it. Great event and great traders."
Nick Reede said: "It was amazing."
Kerry Starkey said: "My kids loved it, especially having their pic taken with Santa. First time Toby has ever sat on Santa's knee; he normally cries his little heart out."
See next week’s paper for pictures from Santa’s grotto at the Leek Post & Times office in The Smithfield Centre, Haywood Street.