Devizes welcomed in the festive season in spectacular style last Friday evening as well over 4,000 people thronged the Market Place to watch Father Christmas press the plunger to light up the town’s Christmas illuminations.
More than 2,000 people joined a lantern procession from the town centre up to the Wharf and back. Last year’s record 700 lanterns was well exceeded and organiser Dave Buxton said there were probably close to 1,000 lanterns in the parade - although no one was able to keep count!
Mr Buxton said: “There has been a terrific response this year. All the primary schools in the area are now involved and more and more people want to take part.”
Among the many and varied forms and designs of lantern, a Great White Shark, which had to be carried by four people, impressed most, though an Angler Fish made by local artist Oliver Freeman caught the eye and the two huge White Horses created by Nursteed Community School created some excitement.
A huge angel had been created by Karolyn Pike, a parent of children at Five Lanes Primary, Potterne. Mrs Pike said: “I made the top half for last year’s parade and this year I added the bottom half and put it on casters. I can’t say how long it took me as I was adding to it when I had time, but it must have been at least two weeks.”
The parade was led off by the Wyvern Band with mayor and mayoress Kelvin and Pam Nash at the front. Later Mr and Mrs Nash went to room at the front of the Bear Hotel to watch the switching on from a grandstand position.
Coun Nash said: “This is a fantastic occasion. Everyone involved should be congratulated.”
Considering the numbers of people involved, the whole event ran like clockwork. The procession set off virtually on the dot of 6pm and, after the visit to the Wharf to pick up Santa from his grotto, everyone was back in the Market Place for 6.45pm in time for the grand switch-on.
This was immediately followed by a firework display, but it was not the end of the evening. Oi Sambistas samba band entertained in the Market Place and stalls and fairground rides stayed open past 8pm.
The event was covered live by Devizes’ own Fantasy Radio station, which gave a running commentary on the evening as well as providing a musical backdrop.