The Christmas countdown has officially begun after Bury St Edmunds’ Christmas lights were switched on last night.
Hundreds gathered in the town centre from 3pm yesterday to take advantage of what the event’s fun-filled programme, organised by Business Improvement District Ourburystedmunds, had to offer.
To keep visitors entertained before the switch-on at 7pm, there were stage performances, funfair rides and over 40 charity stalls.
Stage entertainment included local schools, West Suffolk College, Oleg and Elsa, and a number of performers from the Theatre Royal’s panto Dick Whittington.
There was also a small enclosure on Abbeygate Street, where guests could see penguins and reindeer.
Lou Hovell was this year’s special guest who switched on the lights, after having given over 9,000 hours to volunteering for the British Heart Foundation.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Ourburystedmunds, said: “I’m delighted that our guest of honour, Lou, was able to come and switch on the lights and that people didn’t dash off immediately after they were switched on and stayed to enjoy the last hour of fun.
“The evening went very well. It was a great way to kick off the Christmas shopping season in the town. The penguins and reindeer were as popular with the public as ever and the charity stalls all reported that it was an excellent event.”
The arc shopping centre also had activities running in Charter Square, where children could design their own letter to Santa and get their face painted.
Colin Roberts, manager of the arc, said: “It was absolutely brilliant. It was the best one we’ve had in the six years that I have been here.
“The town was packed. People seemed to be enjoying every minute of it. We were busy from 3pm as soon as the kids had finished school and at 8pm we were still full. People didn’t seem to want to go home.
“I haven’t counted the money yet but it looks like we’ve raised at least £300 for My WiSH charity which is brilliant.
“The town centre looked brilliant and there was a lovely atmosphere. I think that’s what makes Bury St Edmunds’ events like this one really special. It’s a lovely family atmosphere and it’s one we should be proud of.”
The event also marked the start of late shopping in the town on Thursdays and free parking in the town on Thursday evenings until Christmas.
See next Friday’s issue of the Bury Free Press for more photographs.