HENLEY is gearing up for its 22nd Christmas festival and late night shopping event which takes place next Friday, December
HENLEY is gearing up for its 22nd Christmas festival and late night shopping event which takes place next Friday, December 6.
This year the festivities will open with a parade. About 100 primary school pupils will carry “lanterns” through the town led by Father Christmas from 5pm.
The festival will run until 9pm and be opened by a town crier. There will be food and drink and a variety of market stalls. Most of the shops will open late.
Hart Street will be closed to traffic from 3pm to 10pm and Bell Street, Duke Street, Market Place and Friday Street, at the Duke Street and Reading Road end, will be closed from 4pm to 10pm. Fairground rides will be installed, including a carousel in Market Place and bungee rides.
A 40ft Norwegian spruce Christmas tree in Falaise Square will be lit at 7pm by the Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak and the winners of this year’s Christmas card competition, which is supported by the Henley Standard.
This will be followed by carol singing on the town hall steps with the Marlow Town Band and the Invesco Perpetual Choir.
Father Christmas will be in his grotto at the King’s Arms Barn from 5.30pm to 9pm and staff from the Chocolate Theatre Café will be serving hot chocolate in the courtyard to families as they queue.
Aladdin and his Genie of the lamp — AKA James Clifford and Rochelle Parry — will be in attendance to promote the Kenton Theatre’s panto, and children can take part in a special treasure hunt to find the genie’s lamp.
Councillor Gawrysiak said that this year’s event — the 22nd — is going to be the best yet.
“It will be the best,” he said. “It is all about the community coming together and having a really great time.
“We will have an Aladdin’s lamp coming into the centre of Henley and the shops will be open late.”
Town centre manager Peter McConnell said: “A lot of people have worked really hard to make sure that the festival is bigger and better than ever.
“Those shops that opened late last year were packed out and even if they weren’t selling anything that night, it was a great way to market themselves.”
The Christmas atmosphere will continue throughout the weekend.
Leander Club is the sixth “door” of the Henley Living Advent Calendar on the Saturday night and the following night the event will be hosted by Phyllis Court Club.
Also on Sunday is the third annual Santa on the Run fun run, and this year it is hoped 200 people will take part.
Runners will wear fancy dress as they take on the two-mile course, starting and finishing at the River and Rowing Museum.
The race is suitable for all ages and participants can run, jog or walk.
Prizes will be awarded to the fastest runner under 14 and the best dressed team, family, adult and child under 10.
Free Santa hats will be provided for all runners and soup and mince pies will be available at the finish line.
More than 40 people have already signed up for this year’s run, which is in aid of the Mayor’s five charities — Sue Ryder, the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Headway, Riverside Counselling and Age UK Oxfordshire.
Members of The Henley College Wasps academy squad will be stewarding the race. Parking charges at the town council car park in Mill Meadows will be suspended from 9am to 11am on the day.
A family ticket (four people) costs £14, an adult ticket costs £10 and under-10s cost £4. To sign up for the race, visit www.santaontherun.co.uk
Meanwhile, a treasure hunt is already under way in the town. Shoppers can win more than £1,000 in prizes in an Advent calendar-style initiative to market the town as a winter destination.
To win, shoppers have to collect stickers from 24 different businesses.
Each business will be giving away the treasure hunt map and stickers to place on it. Once all the stickers have been collected, the form on the reverse-side of the map needs to be filled in and put in the postbox on the town hall steps by noon on Christmas Eve, when the draw will be made by the Mayor. The venues are Hotel du Vin, Simon Drew, Asquiths, the Bell Bookshop, Jods Galore, Henley Pet Shop, Bagatelle Toys, Regal Picturehouse, Stemtation Flowers, the Henley Brew House, Foam Fashion, Jonkers Rare Books, Boatique, Gorvett & Stone, Laurence Menswear, Hubbledays, Hot Gossip, Deep Clothing, One Offs of Henley, Bluebells of Henley, Reids, E T Sheppard, St Audrey’s and Henley Town Council.
Flags have been erected in Market Place in support of the town council initiative and a Henley on Christmas logo will be displayed in all stores participating in the hunt. Prizes include afternoon tea with the Mayor and Mayoress, a £50 dry cleaning voucher from Reids, a £65 voucher from E T Sheppard, a £40 voucher from Bagatelle and a teddy bear from Asquiths.