NORTH Devon is preparing for a bumper New Year s Eve of fun with street parties planned in most of the region s major towns.

NORTH Devon is preparing for a bumper New Year's Eve of fun with street parties planned in most of the region's major towns.

Barnstaple is making a big effort this year with a special programme of festivities in its new town Square, adding to the world-famous revelry that brings thousands flocking to Bideford each year, traditional harbourside gatherings in Ilfracombe and Appledore, and the colourful celebrations in Torrington town Square.

Barum will be going off with a bang this year as organisers promise a night to remember.

As revealed in the Gazette in June, plans for a family event on the new-look Square have been under way since January. A working party consisting of members of Barnstaple Town Council, Barnstaple Town Centre Management, Bikers' Association of North Devon (BAND), Chapple Entertainment and the North Devon Hospice have put together a fantastic line-up of entertainment to see in the New Year in style.

Lantern FM's James Chapple and Tim Pryor will be taking to the Zero 7-sponsored stage by the Albert Clock at 9pm to host a range of fun and games for the crowds, with some fantastic prizes up for grabs.

There will be live music on stage from Milli Taylor, The Alements, and rock 'n' rollers, The Rhythm Aces.

Other attractions will include a bouncy castle and bungee run for the children, which has been kindly donated by Bouncyland Leisure.

Co-organiser, James Chapple, said that the event - run by volunteers with proceeds being donated to the North Devon Hospice - was not aimed at rivalling the Bideford celebrations.

"We want to offer people an alternative," he said.

"The event will hopefully bring a large number of people into Barnstaple and be the start of something big."

On the night, the North Devon Hospice light, which normally shines over the town at Christmas, will be situated on the Square and will light up in the sky.

Hospice spokesperson, Ali Hunt, said: "The hospice needs to raise £2.5m every year to provide our care services to the people of North Devon, and it's events such as this which really help."

On the stroke of midnight, Mayor Sue Haywood and recent Pride of Britain award winner Lydia Cross will push the button to start an impressive fireworks display.

Lydia, six, from Braunton, had to have both legs amputated at an early age due to a form of meningitis.

"Lydia is such a very brave little girl and has been through so much," added James.

"I can't wait to see her face, as her and Sue light up the sky."

Organisers thanked Brandon Tool Hire and Speedy Hire, who between them have offered portable toilets, crowd barriers, and generators for the event at discount prices.

Meanwhile, Bideford's festivities also promise to light up the sky.

A special laser light show will provide colourful delights projected up to two miles into the night sky from across the river at Brunswick Wharf at regular intervals throughout the evening.

And the countdown to midnight will come to an even more colourful climax than usual, with a bigger-than-ever fireworks display that also promises to be friendlier - designed to provide more colour and less bangs!

The town's evening begins early, with magicians and other entertainers providing fun and spot prizes for children from a quayside roadshow starting at 6.30pm.

The roadshow, compered by local TV personality Seth Conway, will provide the focal point, with its music and entertainment throughout the night. This includes special surprises that organisers are keeping secret, but promise will provide "a bit of a wow factor."

Meanwhile, the town will fill with costumed characters as people come from far and wide to join in the fun.

Up to 10,000 people, most in fancy dress, are again expected to celebrate in style, congregating along the quayside as midnight approaches to create the biggest spectacle of all - which has earned Bideford its reputation as one of the top New Year's Eve venues in the UK.

Town and district councils, the chamber of commerce, police, ambulance, fire brigade and even the coastguards will all be playing their parts in ensuring a night to remember.

The Cavaliers will again be taking the lead in Torrington to provide a spectacular welcome to the New Year.

There is an open invitation for everyone to don fancy dress and join them in partying the night away in the town square.

A musical roadshow, karaoke, kids' competitions and prizes will all add to the atmosphere.