Brave little Evie Poole’s face lit up as she flicked the switch to turn on the Christmas lights and signalled the start of the festive season in her home town.
Evie turned on the lights in Market Drayton in front of 600 people at the Festival of Lights – an event described by the town’s mayor Tim Beckett as the best event of its kind in living memory.
The six-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was chosen to perform the honour on Saturday after people raised £50,000 for her to have a major operation on her legs in America earlier this year.
Her father Jonathan said little Evie is continuing to get stronger as she recovers from the operation and is walking with the aid of a frame. It is hoped one day she will be able to walk independently.
Mr Poole said: “She was a little bit nervous but she loved it and had a big smile on her face. It was very busy and a bit cold but there were a lot of people there we had a nice time.
“I made a little speech just thanking everyone for what they’ve done for us. They’ve been amazing and we couldn’t have done it without them. Evie’s getting stronger everyday.”
Councillor Beckett said: “The feedback I’ve got was it was the best turnout we have ever had.
“The whole of the square right down the road was full of people. I’ve never seen so many people there must have been 500 to 600 people.
“We put a lot of hard work to bring entertainment all day from 11am and we’ve never done that before. It was such a success that we are already planning next year.
“Evie really enjoyed it and it was great for everyone to see how well she is doing.”
Christmas lights were also switched on in Ludlow – despite a power cut which threatened to derail the occasion. Some parts of the town centre were without power for 12 hours on Saturday but engineers rallied to rig up generators to allow the show to go on.
It meant the start of the Christmas countdown did not go like clockwork, and the town’s Tree of light was not switched on as planned.
Councillor Jim Smithers, mayor of Ludlow, said despite the problems it did not spoil the atmosphere in castle Square.
He said: “The power went off at about 12.30am but they managed to get something rigged up by 4pm for the switch on.
“We didn’t get them all on in one go. It didn’t go in time for the Tree of Light and there was a square of lights out but it all went very well considering.”