Festive cheer filled the streets of Skegness last night as the town transformed into a winter wonderland for the ‘biggest and best’ Christmas Switch-On in its history.
An estimated 6,000 people turned out to watch the Reindeer Parade and Lincs FM’s Sam Kirk switch on the lights amid a flurry of fake snow, marking the official start to the town’s Christmas events programme.
The Hildreds Centre’s Steve Andrews, who has spent weeks creating his renowned model displays and organising the event with other key Skegness organisations, was delighted to see the town united in celebration.
He said: “It was the biggest ever, the busiest crowd and the best atmosphere - it was brilliant.
“It’s all about creating a feeling of Christmas spirit in the town and a family atmosphere that everyone can enjoy and if we can build on the night’s success I think we will have a fantastic Christmas this year.”
This year’s parade, led by Santa and his reindeer Peter and Paul, named after BBC Look North’s Peter Levy and Paul Hudson, featured more community groups and organisations than in past years.
Beavers, Scouts, Butlins, the RNLI, Skegness Mini Owners Club, local dance groups and stars of the Embassy Theatre’s Christmas pantomime Cinderella were among those joined by the Mayor of Skegness and a vintage fire engine for the popular parade through the heart of the town.
Skegness town manager Stefan Krause believes the involvement of these groups helped make this year’s event so successful.
He said: “It’s the army of little helpers in the background that make it all happen - more and more people are emotionally connected with the event, which gives them a sense of ownership and pride.”
Mr Krause has also praised the businesses, more of which remained open for the first night of late night shopping, and hopes the night’s successes can continue throughout the build-up to Christmas.
The Mayor of Skegness Coun Mark Anderson feels the event has helped keep Skegness on the map and demonstrated the strength of its community spirit.
He said: “It was the biggest and the best and it just shows how strong our community spirit is in Skegness - we always like to showboat, we shout and scream and make sure that we are on the map as being the best in Lincolnshire.
“When times are tough after the awful summer season we had when the weather was terrible it’s great to see the community pull together.”
Skegness Carnival Committee chairman Kris Bell believes the poor summer season inspired the local people to come out and ‘let their hair down’ for an event which they could feel was their own and not just another tourist attraction.
He has also thanked the public for turning out and heaped praise upon the 20 volunteers who helped ensure the event ran smoothly from start to finish.
Public comments on social networking sites have been emphatically supportive, despite one or two who felt there could have been more charity stalls and a better light display.
Skegness resident Wendy Gould, commenting on the Skegness Skegness site, said: “Smiles a mile wide lit up the faces of youngsters as they danced in the snow.
“There was a warm glow in the hearts of all who beheld the wondrous sight of a bejewelled tree as it lit up the night.
“The spirit of the season is alive all around as throngs celebrate in Skegness town.”
The event was so popular that Mr Krause believes it may have to relocate to Tower Esplanade and the Clock Tower next year to accommodate the crowds.