18,000 enjoy St Albans Christmas lights switch-on
- Credit: Archant
More people than ever gathered in St Albans’ own winter wonderland to celebrate the start of the festive season this year.
About 18,000 spectators turned up on Sunday to watch twinkly lights being switched on all around the centre by children’s TV star Phil “Mister Maker” Gallagher and other panto personalities from the Alban Arena’s Aladdin.
There was also a funfair, face painting, Santa’s grotto, giant snow globes, baubles workshop, and live music stages hosting local acts such as The Big Sing Choir, Excel Dance, Mamas with Voices, The Purple Allstars, The Zipheads, Hurst Children’s Theatre Group, Ollie Bannister and Bob Halford.
As well as the St Albans Christmas Market, which opened on Saturday and will run until December 23, there were 70 stalls selling a variety of yuletide refreshments and gifts.
The event was organised by St Albans district council’s Community Engagement team, but lights lining trees down St Peter’s Street were donated by St Albans Business Improvement District (BID).
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It also financed a new infrastructure to power the decorations, which were installed by The Christmas Decorators.
BID manager Helen Burridge said: “It was fab, we funded the infrastructure and the lights themselves, which were environmentally sound.”
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She explained the trees will not be strangled by strings and can keep growing throughout the year.
“It was absolutely very exciting, the turnout was incredible - there were more people than last year. It was really great, terrific.”
Next year will be even bigger, she said, with plans for the whole BID area decorated in a bespoke lights design.
Portfolio holder for business and the community for SADC Cllr Beric Read said he is delighted with how it turned out: “It has clearly been a success to open the market on the same weekend as the lights switch-on. It gets Christmas in St Albans off to a very exciting start.”
He added: “The atmosphere in the city centre was terrific with visitors having so many different attractions to choose from. There was something for families and people of all ages.”
He stressed visitors to the controversial Christmas Market were up 56 per cent on the equivalent Sunday of last year.