Crowds enjoy four packed days of the annual South Molton Big Christmas Festival

Food glorious food. Picture: Susi Atkinson.Food glorious food. Picture: Susi Atkinson.

SOUTH Molton’s packed four day Big Christmas Festival weekend has been hailed as ‘exceptional’.

From Thursday’s Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary Magdalene’s Church through to Fridays Winter Wonderland late night shopping celebration, Saturday’s Pannier Market and children’s events plus Sunday’s agricultural Christmas Fatstock Show, there really was something for everybody.

“This is a spectacle, which perhaps captures the spirit of Christmas quite like no other in what can honestly have been described as an exceptional weekend,” said Jonathon Lawrence, chairman of South Molton Business Association.

“Many thanks to everyone who has worked for many months to make it the success it has been.”

Scenes from the Art Expo. Picture: Susi Atkinson.Scenes from the Art Expo. Picture: Susi Atkinson.

At the church, the whole interior was alight for five days with 65 decorated Christmas trees representing schools, organisations and businesses from across the community.

Winter Wonderland

A scene from the South Molton Christmas Fatstock Show - Candyfloss is always a must. Picture: Susi Atkinson.A scene from the South Molton Christmas Fatstock Show - Candyfloss is always a must. Picture: Susi Atkinson.

The weather was fine for the biggest event in South Molton’s busy calendar on Friday night, as crowds thronged the Square to enjoy the many sights, entertainment and refreshments on offer at Winter Wonderland.

It began as the Samba Sol band led the Children’s Lantern Parade as it wended it way from the Infant School to the Square. Enroute they met up with Father Christmas, who had given his reindeers a night off, arriving instead via Cedric the donkey and his smart carriage.

The audience enjoyed carols with South Molton Town Band plus live acts on the music stage. There were also fairground rides, roasted chestnuts, food and drink, a hot air balloon and entertainment throughout the evening.

Traders were delighted with the evening. Callum Robb, of Bon Bons sweet shop said: “This has probably been the busiest Winter Wonderland we have ever experienced – it has been very, very good.

Ron Tapp from Heasley Mill, who farms with his son Andrew, took the Championship once again at the South Molton Christmas Fatstock Show. Picture: Susi Atkinson.Ron Tapp from Heasley Mill, who farms with his son Andrew, took the Championship once again at the South Molton Christmas Fatstock Show. Picture: Susi Atkinson.

“The entertainment has been great and the free minibus courtesy of Mole Valley Farmers, has successfully linked the town and Pathfield Industrial Estate.”

For the first time there was an Art Expo in the Assembly Rooms displaying pictures, sculpture and design items from local schools. South Molton Business Association (SMBA), which organises the Big Christmas Festival, awarded various prizes across the various age groups.

With more than 100 stalls trading over the weekend, for the first year the Christmas Plaza was created adjacent to the central car park, with craft and Mole Valley Farmers marquees and larger fairground rides.

Fatstock success

Sunday saw the fifth Christmas Fatstock Show, firmly rooted in agriculture and the town’s farming tradition.

Pens of sheep returned to the Pannier Market, as in bygone days, before being auctioned. Ron Tapp and his son Andrew took the Championship once again, as they did in 2011.

There were demonstrations of traditional spinning and an exhibition by The Wool Board, who have a base in South Molton.

Pigs, an Exmoor pony, alpacas and a variety of poultry could all be seen in the market.

North Devon’s celebrity shepherd David Kennard was there with his sheepdogs, as was South Molton’s inimitable Jonny Kingdom, while Dan The Fish Man gave a cookery demonstration, making a massive paella. Rural crafts demonstrations included blacksmithing, dry stone walling and wood turning.

There were plenty of show classes where entrants could demonstrate their expertise in anything from producing a clamp of silage, a photograph or a Christmas wreath!

Events ran throughout the event on the stage, including singing from the children of Brayford Primary School and South Molton Junior schools, and the Choral Society.

There was plenty of food and drink to be tried, tasted and bought, with stalls offering everything from Christmas trees, wreaths and decorations, to traditional fare, local cider and craft-based presents.

Auctioneer David Lockwood of Stags, which has supported the Fatstock Show since the beginning, said: “We have had a tremendous weekend. The weather has been exceedingly helpful and once again the number of entries has been up overall.

“We have been very fortunate to be well supported by the community - both by the farmers here today and local people.”

Organiser Heather Page agreed, saying: “It has been amazingly successful day. The crowds have never stopped!”

All proceeds from the show will go to the Chemotherapy Appeal.

* CLICK on the picture galleries to the top right of this page to see photographs from the weekend taken by Susi Atkinson.