The carol singers are busily rehearsing… the shops are full of festive fare… Santa’s little helpers are working overtime… and the countdown to Christmas continues with the return of Ellesmere’s eagerly-awaited Winter Festival on Friday, November 24.

Organisers say the annual event will be “better and brighter than ever” and they’re promising to “light up your night” with a merry mixture of seasonal activities.

Among the highlights will be 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 offering a multitude of gift ideas, including, jewellery, craft-ware, toys, games and traditional festive produce.

“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 3.30 p.m and an opportunity for children to have their photographs taken with him, while stall-holders in the Market Hall and Scotland Street prepare to welcome their first customers.

Santa leaves to take a break to feed his reindeer at 5.30,  and town centre streets will be closed to traffic soon afterwards in readiness for a fun-filled evening that begins with carols around the Christmas tree in the Square, the switching-on of the Christmas illuminations 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.

Santa returns to town by narrow-boat along the canal at 6.30 arriving at the Wharf Head,  near Tesco, 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.

The colourful parade will wind its way around the town centre to the market hall where the Man in Red will return to his grotto around 6.45.

“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 take-aways.

“We’re hoping the weather will be kind for what we hope will be a fabulous, festive evening, and we can’t wait to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with you!”

There will be another late-night shopping event in the Market hall between 4.30 and on Friday, December 15, followed by an artisan market on day, Saturday the 16th between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The monthly Farmers’ Market takes place on Sunday, December 10,between 10 a.m and 2 p.m.

Credit: Alex Hunter.