Bideford sparkles despite the rain

RUNAWAY reindeer, rusty robots and rain – lots of it – did their very best to put a dampener on Bideford s Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Months and months of planning and a host of fantastic attractions could do little to prevent heavy downpo

RUNAWAY reindeers, 'rusty' robots and rain - lots of it - did their very best to put a dampener on Bideford's Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday.

Months and months of planning and a host of fantastic attractions could do little to prevent heavy downpours from snuffing out the town's popular annual sparkler.

In fact, the only dry seat in the house was inside a giant cracker at the bottom of Bridgeland Street. And despite spending three days inside his Christmas cocoon sheltering from thunder, lightning and the occasional early morning drunk, Britain's Got Talent star Merlin Cadogan probably wished he could stay inside a little longer rather than join the brolly-wielding, rain-soaked crowds who stopped by to show their support.

In spite of the conditions, an estimated 4,000 people braved the conditions on the rain-lashed quay to see the official switch-on by Paracombe teenager Ashley Henry, who is receiving respite care at the Children's Hospice South West.


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The crowds didn't hang around long after Ashley pushed the plunger to turn on the lights. But those who came early were able to enjoy street entertainers, fairground rides, a farmers' market, as well as stalls offering all manner of treats from bratwurst to burgers. There was also a Christmas parade with marching band, dancers, Father Christmas and reindeer from the Cairngorm Centre in Scotland - once one had been recovered after it escaped its pen and bolted up the High Street!

After working so hard to help put the event on in the town, co-organiser Darren Sparrey, of the Bideford Christmas Committee and event sponsors DS Electrical, said he was left "heartbroken".

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"It's been a nightmare from start to finish this year," he said. "Even putting up the Christmas lights was a challenge because of the weather we've had.

"One of the reindeer escaped after being spooked by one of the fairground attractions, Santa was soaked to the skin, and the star of the show, Titan the robot, was unable to come out and perform at the finale because of the rain.

"But saying that, in all the previous years we've held events it hasn't rained so it had to happen sooner or later."

Mr Sparrey said that despite the setbacks with the weather, there were still positives to take from the event.

"Considering the weather, we were fairly pleased with the turnout and estimate there were somewhere in the region of 4,000 to 5,000 there," he said.

"Also, it was pleasing to see so many of the traders get involved this year and Merlin raised �1,005 for the Children's Holiday Foundation."

Mr Sparrey said the Christmas Committee would be striving to make the event bigger and better next year.

"So much work and expense goes into organising the event but we need to sit down and come up with a 'Plan B' in case of wet weather," he said.

"We will be coming back with a completely new approach next year and are looking to come up with a big new finish, possibly involving the water to reflect Bideford's maritime heritage."

To get involved with the Bideford Christmas Committee or offer your ideas and support, readers can get in touch via Bideford Town Council.

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