Shropshire Star

Countdown to Christmas gets underway this week at Ellesmere's packed winter festival

Sailing in by narrowboat to take part in a lantern parade is one of the more unusual gigs in Santa's busy schedule this year.

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Last's year's winter parade with Fizzgiggs Stephenson's rocket

He will be just one of the stars in the Ellesmere Winter Festival on Friday when the town is expected to be packed with people eager to get into the Christmas spirit.

Organisers say the annual event will be better and brighter than ever with a merry mixture of seasonal activities.

The ever-popular Lantern Parade, arranged by the Fizzgigs community arts group, the switching-on of the town’s Christmas lights, and Santa’s grotto in the Market Hall, where stall-holders will be offering a multitude of gift ideas including jewellery, craft-ware, toys, games and traditional festive produce are among the attractions.

Last year's winter festival

“It’s a great opportunity to bring the whole community together and get everyone in the Christmas spirit in the build-up to the big day,” said Alex Hunter on behalf of the organising committee, which includes representatives of Ellesmere Chamber of Commerce, the town council and local voluntary groups.

“This is a great late-night shopping event with selected shops saying ‘thank you’ to customers with food and drink treats; plus there’ll be plenty of other attractions for all ages, including a fairground carousel in the Cross Street car park.”

The festivities get underway with Santa’s arrival in the grotto at 3.30pm and stall-holders in the Market Hall and Scotland Street prepared to welcome their first customers.

He will take a break at 5.30pm before returning by narrowboat along the canal at 6.30pm arriving at the Wharf to join the spectacular lantern parade featuring magical creations made by Fizzgigs volunteers and those who’ve taken part in the group’s lantern-making workshops ahead of the festival.

Getting ready for this year's parade Philippa and Evelyn Burrows

A free lantern workshop was held on Sunday with another planned for Tuesday at Ellesmere Town Hall between 6pm and 9pm. Primary school children must be accompanied by an adult.

Fiona Matthews took her young family, including children Macey and Jenson. She said: "It’s become part of our family tradition, we come every year. The festival marks the start of our family Christmas."

Lanterns were made in the shapes of stars and space rockets which Fizzgigs’ chairman, Mirjana Garland, said could be a clue to this year's theme.

The evening includes carols around the Christmas tree in the Square, the switching-on of the Christmas lights and the blessing of Rotary’s Tree of Light.

The carol-singing will be led by pupils from Ellesmere primary school and the Cellar Church choir, with more festive music provided during the evening by Mere Brass.

“Traditionally, the winter festival attracts lots of people into town from far and wide”, said Alex.

“We want to extend a warm welcome to everyone, and there’ll be plenty of seasonal food and drink on offer in local cafes and pubs, as well as street takeaways."