Julie Kingdom, wife of the late Johnny Kingdom, had been invited to officially switch on the lights and mark the start of the town's Christmas. Television personality and wildlife expert Johnny was hugely popular in North Devon and there was a wave of sadness following his death in September last year when a digger overturned on his land. The town's Christmas festivities, organised by South Molton Town Council, began on Friday with people gathering around the main square and Pannier Market from late afternoon. There was an hour-long set from highly acclaimed band, Stillyano, and the evening will be rounded off with a huge free, firework display in Central Park. The market was also packed with stalls, family entertainment, children's rides, food and drink stalls. Mr Henderson said it had been a 'stunning night': "With our carnival having been cancelled back in September and the weather not looking great in the run-up to the event, we were extremely fortunate to have a dry night which allowed between 5,000 and 6,000 people - the most we've ever had attending - to come out and enjoy our spectacular lights switch on and annual firework display. "The town council was delighted to welcome Julie Kingdom and her family to perform the switch on, which she dedicated to the memory of her husband Johnny, who is fondly remembered by many people well beyond the parish boundary of South Molton. "It really was a great start for all our forthcoming festive events we have on in town in the run-up to Christmas."