A giant reindeer, illuminated trees and shooting stars wowed thousands who packed into Shrewsbury for the switching on of the Christmas lights.
The Christmas Cracker event featured choirs, a lantern parade, dance performances and a visit from Father Christmas.
The switch-on was carried out by Mayor Jon Tandy, Mayoress Diane Tandy and town crier Martin Wood in The Square.
Despite a blustery and wet day, rain clouds stayed away with only a few spots falling as the lantern parade led by drummers from Shrewsbury District Scouts made their way through town.
Watching as ribbons of lights suspended from the buildings were switched on were Karen Lezama and her children Martina, 11 and Sabrina, 10, who are from Spain but are staying in Shrewsbury as part of a holiday..
She said: “We thought the lights were wonderful. It is a great evening and we have enjoyed seeing Shrewsbury like this.”
Claire Stockdale, 28, from Snailbeach, near Minsterley watched the switch on with her eight-year-old son John. “This is the first year we have been and it is fantastic, it is really good fun.”
Father Christmas and his sleigh flew in to The Square, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Shawbury and Mid Shropshire, and even an oompah band performed.
Molli Wilkinson and her friend Emily Gee, both 12 and from Shrewsbury had taken part in the lantern parade with their giant holly creation.
“I made it at the workshop that was held a couple of weeks ago but had to get Emily to come along and help me carry it,” said Molli. “The lights are brilliant this year. We came last year but this year is better.”
Five-year-old Ben Low was with his aunt Laura Harrison, 38 and her dog Max. “This is the first time I have been,” said Ben. “It is great and the best bit is the reindeer, but my light-up sword is good too.”
After the lights were lit, the Tree of Light was launched in Darwin Shopping Centre, where choirs including Of One Voice and Sabrina Brass kept the crowds entertained.
Children’s character Lalaloopsy also joined in the fun, courtesy of The Entertainer.
Tina Betton, 55 from Church Stretton had travelled to the town with grandchildren, Katie Wills, aged five and two-and-a-half-year-old Amelia Pearson. She said: “The lights this year are really good. The children love them. The singing is beautiful too and makes it feel really Christmassy.”
Gemma Lake, 26 and her partner Daniel Rawlings, 26 from Shrewsbury had brought their 15-month-old son Oliver to see the lights. “Oliver loved the reindeer,” said Gemma. “He came last year but this year is much more taken with it all. It is amazing.”
The town’s indoor market last night launched the first of its late-night Christmas shopping evenings.
The market hall, off Claremont Street, was open until 8.30pm and shoppers were able to browse for gift ideas and enjoy a bite to eat in the market’s restaurants and cafes.
Earlier in the evening, the Wilfred Owen School choir sang seasonal songs.
Outside in Shoplatch, there were fun rides, including spinning tea cups, and a stand where children could win goldfish.
Shropshire Council also started its festive park and ride service last night. Every Wednesday up until Christmas people can either travel free on Park & Ride, or park free in council-owned long-stay car parks after 4pm. Applicable car parks are Frankwell Main, St. Julian’s Friars and Abbey Foregate.
Claire Wild, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “I am pleased to be able to offer a choice of free parking or Park & Ride, to enable more people to enjoy Wednesday nights and help support town centre traders.”