‘Immense’ crowd on the quay as Christmas comes to Bideford

THOUSANDS of people descended on Bideford to see the turning on of the town’s Christmas lights yesterday (Sunday).

Crowds packed the quayside, High Street, Mill Street and Pannier Market to enjoy a host of attractions including a reindeer parade and the return of the popular Titan the Robot. Other highlights included carols by the Kingsley School Choir, DJ James Chapple, and the Heart FM roadshow, as well as plenty of stalls, fairground rides and street entertainers.

The annual switch-on event has been hit by wet weather in recent years but clear skies – and a switch from Saturday to Sunday for the first time – helped swell what Mayor of Bideford Trevor Johns called an “ecstatic and immense” crowd.

“It’s the greatest crowd we’ve had for years,” said Cllr Johns.

“It was a great day for Bideford and in my capacity as Mayor, I was honoured to witness it.

“All credit to the Bideford Christmas Committee for an excellent day. The various attractions they organised around the town created a real buzz in Bideford.”

Local businessman Darren Sparrey, who heads up the self-funded voluntary Bideford Christmas Committee with wife Julie and fellow businessman Simon Scott, said: “It was the best event we’ve had so far; it caught me by surprise how many people were there.

“We have been a little unlucky with the weather in the past but this year we had everything in our favour.

“A lot of time and effort goes into organising the event but the reward for us is seeing people enjoying themselves and having a good family day out.

“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback already, including an email from four families who travelled up from Plymouth.”

Thanks to an upgrade by Bideford Town Council, there are more lights than ever this year, including decorations on every lamp standard along the Quay as well as the overhead decorations and twinkling riverside trees.

Mr Sparrey said he hoped the council would keep adding to them in the next couple of years to make Bideford one of the best places around to come and see the Christmas lights.

Bideford town clerk Heather Blackburn praised the efforts of electrical engineers, who “pulled out the stops” to ensure repairs to a damaged lamppost on the quay were carried out before the switch-on.

“The team from DS Electrical and Devon County Council did a great job to get the lamppost repaired in time. The lights looked spectacular,” she said.

The festivities came to a spectacular finale with a fireworks display over the River Torridge.

One visitor contacted the Gazette this morning to thank organisers for putting on the event.

Mrs V Price, from Bideford, said: “It was like a big party. Everywhere was busy with locals and outsiders spending their well earned money in this super little town.

“The Christmas lights look stunning – pretty and classy. And to finish, a most spectacular fireworks display making the river and the bridge look so gorgeous.

“Thank-you to everyone involved; a breath of fresh air in this ever depressing world. Well done Bideford.”

For more pictures of the event, click on the gallery link at the top right of this page.