By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN CENTRE started its Christmas preparations on Saturday as thousands of local residents attended the annual festive lights switch-on event.
It concluded a day of activities for everyone keen to enjoy this year following cancellations last winter due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Starting at 10am, the event featured a stage created near Sports Direct in West Street, with performances at regular intervals by groups and individual entertainers. These included unicyclists, stilt walkers, jugglers, circus acts, and acrobats who all engaged the growing crowds, including shoppers, throughout the day.
Alongside the entertainment was music and singing from local groups, with face painting, Christingle making, and a chance to meet Santa’s reindeer also available. Funfair rides were accessible for a small fee and included a helter-skelter, swing boats, chair-o-planes, mirror maze and carousel.
Then came the big attraction at 5.30pm, when the lights were switched on by the Mayor and Mayoress of Fareham, helped by Santa, following a countdown. As the Christmas lights glowed amongst an enthusiastic crowd there was further cheers as people were treated to the finale of the main event, which featured a dance routine from Blue Fish Entertainment but there were no fireworks this time around.
Although crowds slowly dispersed after the switch-on, many stayed behind until the close at 8pm to sample festive food and enjoy the atmosphere, with most activities still open to the public. Many shops stayed open later while Christmas goodies were also available for visitors including a festive tipple (or two) throughout the evening. But after last year’s non-starter, organisers are delighted at how the 2021 chapter of this popular spectacle unfolded.
Leader of Fareham Borough Council Councillor Sean Woodward said: “Last year was nothing, so this is incredible. Crowd-wise it gets bigger and more popular every year. We’ve had really good footfall for local traders and businesses with around 100 stalls so we hope they have been able to raise their profile. It’s very difficult to think about how people would feel about coming out in big crowds again. But it’s been better than ever, we’ve had thousands here. It’s been brilliant to see and a nice start to Christmas.’”
In other festive events at Fareham Shopping Centre, next Saturday (27/11) will see a new opportunity for family and friends to enjoy a perfect picture for the memories. Their giant snow globe will open in the square down by B&M from 11am until 4pm with flakes falling inside the indoor attraction.
For three December weekends a grotto will be open in Osbourne Square with free gifts available on a first come basis. This will be accessible between 11am-4pm on the 5th, 11th, 12th,18th & 19th December with everybody invited. Christmas themed entertainment will also be visible for three performances between 11:30am and 2:30pm on successive Saturday lunchtimes.
PICTURED: Crowds in the Bandstand area of Fareham Town Centre