Eastleigh folk braved winds and rain to get the festive season off with a bang yesterday evening.
The Mayor Rupert Kyrle, accompanied by his Mayoress Karen, was on the bandstand – along with Father Christmas, Eastleigh’s own Paralympian David Knott and MP Chris Huhne – to throw the switch on the towns’ new £30,000 low carbon eco-friendly Christmas lights triggering a spectacular, but somewhat less eco- friendly, firework display.
A day of persistent rain had turned much of the recreation ground in front of the bandstand into a quagmire which largely confined the appreciative crowd to hard standing on Leigh Road and the park footpaths.
Police estimates put this year’s attendance for the popular annual event at around 2,500, which is considerably lower than on previous years but is still an excellent turnout considering the inclement weather.
The ceremony was the culmination of a full day of carefully planned activities and attractions in the town centre. Both Market Street and High Street and the car park adjacent to the recreation ground had been pedestrianised to accommodate a Christmas market complete with kiddie rides.
Inevitably the weather impacted adversely on trade, although Santa’s Grotto and a children’s trampoline were kept busy in Wells Place and there was plenty going on to entertain shoppers with music from Crestwood College Steel Band, The Big Noise Community Samba band and Thornden Wind Band.
The day ended with a parade through the town headed by special guest, Santa who loves Eastleigh’s Christmas festival so much, he has never missed a single year!
On the bandstand the Mayor and Mayoress were clearly enjoying themselves bopping along to the festive music supplied by the appropriately named local radio station Breeze FM.
The new lights which have been paid for out hard won developer’s contributions use the latest LED technology which should reduce the usual £2,700 festive electric bill.
A sufficient amount of the old lighting was found to be still serviceable and has been used to extend the lighting display into Wells Place.
It is hoped the smart new decorations will pull in the crowds and give a seasonal boost to the town’s hard pressed traders.