THE Mayor of Henley has urged residents to attend the Henley Christmas Festival tonight (Friday).
The annual celebration will be opened by town crier Ian Beyts at 5pm followed by a traditional children?s lantern parade featuring pupils from the town?s primary schools.
The youngsters will be led around the town centre by Father Christmas, finishing at the town hall in Market Place. Santa will then move to his grotto at King?s Arms Barn.
There will be craft, charity and community group stalls and others selling food and drink, while fairground rides will be set up in Hart Street, Bell Street and Duke Street.
Many businesses will stay open until 9pm so people can go shopping.
The lights on the Christmas tree in Market Place will be switched on by the Mayor Lorraine Hillier and Mark Armour, chief executive of Invesco Perpetual, which paid for the 40ft tree.
This will be followed by carol singing on the town hall steps, with visitors accompanied by a choir from Gillotts School.
Councillor Hillier said: ?It?s very important that people come because there are a lot of local traders and many organisations will have stands.
?Every street will have something on offer and performers will be popping up on street corners. It?s a real family event and an opportunity to support the traders and everyone who has worked hard in the town. It?s a good thing for everyone to attend.?
Hart Street will be shut from 3pm to 10pm, while Bell Street, Duke Street, Market Place and Friday Street, between the junctions with Duke Street and Queen Street, will be closed from 4pm to 10pm.
On Sunday, more than 80 Henley businesses will take part in the new High Street Hootenanny shopping event. Shops will open from 11am to 4pm, many of them specially.
The event will be opened by children?s dance troupe Stephanie?s Stage Stop, who will perform at the Christmas tree, while members of the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society will sing carols in Duke Street. There will also be performances by music groups from Acoustic@Magoos at Boatique and Central Home and by Henley Music School in the Bell Bookshop and Louise Claire Millinery.
Other businesses will host their own activities including make-up demonstrations, tea leaf readings and wreath-making.
At the Kenton Theatre in New Street there will be face painting, ice cream and a visit from the dame in this year?s pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, while at the River and Rowing Museum in Mill Meadows children will be able to meet Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows and Father Christmas.
Jonkers bookshop will have Night Before Christmas-themed readings for children as well as from local authors Amanda Jennings and Mike Read and Oxfam in Market Place will host storytelling sessions. Local historian Elizabeth Hazeldine will give a free walking tour of the town centre.
Other businesses taking part include Space NK, Upstairs and Downstairs, White Gdn, Henley Pet Shop, Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Sports, Hubbledays and Way?s Bookshop. The event is supported by estate agent Davis Tate.
Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of people are expected to take part in the fifth annual Santa on the Run fun run, which is sponsored by the Henley Standard. The run, which starts at 10am, will see participants dress up in Christmas-themed costumes to take on the two-mile, off-road route which starts and finishes at the River and Rowing Museum.
All the runners will be given refreshments including mince pies after crossing the finish line and prizes will be given to the fastest runner under 14, the best dressed family, best dressed adult, best dressed runner under 10 and best dressed team.
Tickets cost £6 for adults, £4 for under-10s or £14 for a family ticket (four people). Proceeds will be donated to the Mayor?s charities. To enter, visit www.santaontherun.co.uk
Cllr Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, said: ?It will be busy on Sunday. The café is always open anyway but I have the fun run and other Christmas events and then I will get down to the Hootenanny.?