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Stratford's Christmas countdown gets underway

Hundreds of excited Christmas revelers gathered in Stratford town centre last week for the town’s hotly anticipated Christmas lights switch on.

The annual curtain raiser for the festive season was a bit different this year with snow machines replacing the traditional fireworks display.

As the tension built up to the switch on Thomas Jolyffe School Choir, accompanied by musicians from King Edward VI School performed Christmas carols to onlookers.

With the sky turning dark at 4.30pm, Stratford mayor Cllr Juliet Short appeared on the Town Hall Balcony along with youngsters Ingrid Ash and Sophie Evans-Lee, who were given the honour of pressing the switch.

Ingrid and Sophie were selected for the task in recognition of their charity work with the Shakespeare Hospice, Meningitis Now and the Child Brain Injury Trust.

Crowds cranked up the volume for the final countdown before bursting into cheers as the town’s illuminations sparkled over them.

The much talked about artificial snow proved to be a big hit, showering down from the Town Hall balcony, creating a very convincing white Christmas effect.

With onlookers still captivated by the snow display Ingrid, Sophie and civic dignitaries journeyed from the Town Hall to the Bridge Street roundabout to switch on the Shakespeare Hospice Christmas tree lights.

After a short delay finding who had the switch, the crowd once again counted down before the colourful Christmas tree was lit up.

Ingrid said: “It was such a great experience to turn on the Christmas lights, it is something I will always remember. There were so many people in the crowd, many more than I expected, it was brilliant.”

Sophie added: “My favourite bit was turning on the Christmas tree, it was great and I also thought the snow was really good.”

Sophie wasn’t the only one thrilled to see snow falling from the sky in Stratford, eight-year-old Archie Stowe, who was amongst the crowd at the Town Hall, said: “It was so cool, it was sick, the snow was ace, it was the best bit it.”

It has taken months of hard work by the Stratford Christmas Lights Company to create the town’s spectacular lights display.

This year the group has spent thousands of pounds replacing or installing new lights on Rother Street, Greenhill Street, Chapel Street and High Street.

Mick Love, Chairman of the Stratford Christmas Lights Company, said: “Making these displays is an all year job, we’ve already started preparing for 2017. I thought the switch on went really well and I thought selecting Ingrid and Sophie to turn them on was a really good idea.

“We create the Christmas tree light display on the roundabout for the Shakespeare Hospice, and it’s a great way for them to raise their profile.

“I would like to thank everyone who supported us. The Town Trust, Town Council, Stratforward, businesses in the town and members of the public have all helped us.”

Stratford mayor Cllr Juliet Short added: “We were working non-stop getting everything ready from Tuesday and I think it was all worthwhile. I think we had around 400 people visit Santa’s grotto on the night too. The Christmas lights look particularly impressive this year and you can see all the hard work that has gone into them and the thought that has gone into the colour schemes.

“My favourite bit was the snow, it was so realistic. I heard a five-year-old girl say that it was the first time she had ever seen snow.

“I’m glad that Ingrid and Sophie got to turn on the lights and that everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.”

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