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Video: Henley gets into Christmas spirit in style
Published 04/12/12



THOUSANDS of people packed Henley town centre on Friday evening to celebrate the start of the Christmas season.

Watch our video of the Christmas lights switch on by clicking here

The 21st Christmas Festival included the official switch-on of the main tree lights, carol singing, a children’s parade and funfair rides.

About 50 businesses, charities and organisations had stalls selling festive gifts, food and drink and most of the shops stayed open late with many handing out mince pies and mulled wine.

The main town centre streets were closed for the evening.

Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin said the clear, dry night boosted the crowds.

“It was an absolutely perfect night,” she said. “There were lots of stalls and everyone was getting into the Christmas spirit.

“It was very good to have so many people in the town centre and there was a lovely family feel to the festival.”

The night began with the parade of more than 80 children carrying glow in-the-dark balloons.

They were led by Father Christmas from Hotel du Vin in New Street to the town hall via Church Street and Hart Street.

Following the procession, Santa’s grotto was opened in the King’s Arms Barn.

Annabel Richardson, eight, turned on the lights on the 40ft Norwegian spruce as a reward for winning the Mayor’s Christmas card design competition.

Cllr Hodgkin led the crowd in carol singing, accompanied by a Salvation Army band, outside the town hall.

Other attractions included fairground rides and a fire engine for children to explore. A street entertainer called Pocket the Clown performed comedy and magic tricks. Children could hav

e their photographs taken with Cinderella, the star of this year’s pantomime at the Kenton Theatre, in her carriage.

Chef Antony Worrall Thompson barbecued food outside Machins the butchers.

Ian Blandford, who owns the business, said: “It was a really great evening and it was brilliant to see all the children having fun.

“The festival had a really good feel to it. It makes everyone realise that Christmas is just around the corner.”

Staff at Boots in Bell Street wore festive fancy dress outfits, and handed out free goodie bags, mince pies and champagne.

Store manager Julie Bricknall said: “It’s the first Christmas Festival we’ve been involved in and it’s quite magical. Everyone has come out to make an effort.”

Peter Ward, 34, assistant manager of Maison Blanc, was selling the cafe’s new Christmas stock outside the store.

He said: “It’s the first festival I’ve been to and I think it’s amazing. Henley never does anything by half.”

Tim O’Sullivan parked his Bugatti Type 35 1964 replica outside his menswear shop in Duke Street, which opened in October.

He said: “I did it to give our street a little bit more help and get people to come and visit our shops. The festival was a great idea to attract more customers.”

Town centre manager Peter McConnell said everyone seemed to have a “fantastic time”.

He said: “It was a really lovely evening. It’s good to see the whole town turn out and so many families enjoying themselves.

“We were incredibly pleased with the way it went and credit must go to the town council staff who worked so hard to organise it.”

Clients of Expert Fitness raised £680 for the Sparks children’s health charity by pedalling on cycling machines for three hours continuously. Staff from Fidelity Group collected money.

Watch our video of the Christmas lights switch on by clicking here


Published 04/12/12

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