CHRISTMAS was officially launched last Thursday (November 17) with the big switch-on of the festive lights and a spectacular fireworks display.
Thousands of shoppers, visitors and residents gathered in Priory Meadow to watch the festivities.
Muddles and Snow White, featuring in this year’s pantomime at the White Rock Theatre, switched on the lights before the fireworks were lit.
John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “It went really well this year and we were lucky to have good weather. There must have been thousands who came, more than last year, when it was a bit stormy.
“Lots of children enjoyed themselves watching the fireworks and, as we counted down to the launch of the fireworks display, we played Katy Perry’s song, Firework.”
Santa’s grotto was transformed into the Evil Queen’s lair for the night - Snow White’s arch enemy, and 30 pairs of family tickets to this year’s pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, were given away.
Children had to find the 30 gold coins with a Priory Meadow sticker on them among scores of chocolate coins in a big treasure trove. More than 200 youngsters took part.
Mr Hough said: “Being able to provide some free fun and enjoyment as part of our Christmas offer to families at this time of year is probably the most enjoyable part of my job. I spoke with one young mum with her little girl, who was moved to tears watching her daughter, who was so excited with the fireworks and the music.
“Loads of people were dancing in the crowd. It was brilliant.”