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CHRISTMAS will officially arrive in Melksham next week when one of the town’s biggest events, the Christmas lights switch-on, makes its triumphant post-lockdown return.
Thousands of people are expected to flock to the Market Place on Saturday 4th December for the first switch-on event since 2019, to find out what the Melksham Christmas Lights volunteers have in store this year.
And with a reputation for having the best lights display in the west, anticipation is building in the community – and the volunteers promise that the community won’t be disappointed.
On behalf of the Melksham Christmas Lights Group, Paul Weymouth said, “As always, we are trying to continue on the trajectory of previous years by making it bigger and better than before. We’ve got some great ideas in the pipeline for this year – and we promise to do our best to make Melksham proud once again!”
For the switch-on, Melksham News has been told that a surprise guest will take to the stage to pick a lucky child from the crowd to help them switch on the lights – who could the bearded and jolly guest be?
Before the big Christmas lights reveal, revellers can enjoy the annual Christmas Fayre from 1pm. There will be a variety of stalls including gifts, handicrafts, tombolas and raffles, food, games, live music and fairground rides, located in the Assembly Hall and Market Place. And Father Christmas has even made time in his busy schedule to take part and meet the children of Melksham.
One of the organisers of the fayre, Sarah Land said, “We are so excited to have the fayre and switch-on event return this year. This will be a true festive gift to the community – it’s something we all need!
“Seeing the community come together on Remembrance Sunday was so nice to see. It is what we need, we need to try and get back to normal as much as possible – so we hope that the fayre will build on that success.”
About what visitors can expect, Sara explains, “Father Christmas will be taking up residence in the Town Hall for the event, and in a change to the usual grotto experience, this year he will be reading a story to groups of up to 20 children at a time, before he hands out presents. Tickets, costing £3 a child, can be pre-booked, which is advisable – tickets are available now from the Town Hall and the Assembly Hall.
“And in the hall, there will be lots of stalls selling cakes, sweets, wood art, beeswax candles, gifts, a tombola, embroidered gingerbread, and all the usual charity stalls, including, for the first time, the town’s first LGBT group, Proud Melksham.
“And the Assembly Hall bar will be open for refreshments, so if you feel like a break from the cold or a sit down, you can use the lounge.
“There’s something for everyone – all the fun of the fayre! So come along, have a browse, bag a bargain and find some Christmas gifts for your friends and family.”
To keep the crowds entertained, there will be performances from Melksham Music and Drama’s choir who will be singing all the festive favourites and classics in the Assembly Hall. There will also be live music in the Market Place.
The festive fun starts at 1pm when Father Christmas arrives on his sleigh to officially open the fayre. The fayre will be open until 5.45pm, with the Christmas lights switch-on is scheduled for 6pm.
About road closures and Covid safety measures in place for the event, the town council says, “In order for the Fayre to take place there are two road closures arranged for Saturday December 4th. The Market Place car park (taxi rank and disabled bays) and access to Melksham House, Crown House and the Blue Pool will be closed all day until 8pm, to allow for the outdoor stalls and fairground. At 4pm, a wider road closure will be in place, to allow for the crowds that are expected for the switch on. This includes the Market Place roundabout and access from its junctions at Spa Road and King Street, and the High Street up to Lowbourne Roundabout and Church Street. There will be exit only from Church Street Car Park and no vehicular access at any other point within the closure.
“The event is being organised to be as Covid secure as possible. Social distancing will be encouraged at all times, and there is a limit of numbers in the Assembly Hall for the indoor fayre. Stallholders and staff will be wearing masks indoors and attendees of the indoor fayre are asked to wear masks where possible too.
“Sanitiser will be provided around the fayre – inside and outside -but please bring your own and be responsible for you and your family.
“For the 6pm switch on, the best views are from the far side of the Market Place – near Eddy’s and the Market Tavern – so there is no need to crowd around the Town Hall. The lights will be more impressive from further away.
“There will also be a video live stream of the Switch On which will be broadcast on the Melksham Town Council Facebook page, so for those who are unable to attend, you can still enjoy the Christmas Lights Switch on from home.
“We encourage mask wearing both inside and out although we recognise that this is a personal choice.
“The fairground will be operating from 1pm to around 7.30pm, outside, so expect the usual happy noise of children enjoying rides and games, and the most fantastic sounds will be at 6pm when the lights are switched on amid music, cheering and some spectacular fireworks.
“If there are any issues or concerns on the day, please get in touch with staff at the Control Point which will at the front of the Town Hall.
“We are looking forward to an uplifting community event, and we are grateful for the many volunteers and staff who are busy preparing to make this event possible, as well as the stalwart Christmas Lights volunteers who are working their usual magic to provide another amazing display of lights for Melksham.”