Almost 3,500 people packed into Warrington’s Golden Square Shopping Centre to see children’s TV favourite Justin Fletcher light up the town for Christmas.
The CBeebies TV star was joined on stage by Santa, girl band Misstasia and Warrington Wolves players for the big moment.
Justin, the man behind Something Special with Mr Tumble, Justin’s House and Gigglebiz, told jokes, sang and danced to the delight of the crowd, who joined him in a massive hokey cokey dance.
Afterwards Justin described the atmosphere for the big countdown in Old Market Square as magical.
He added: “Everyone got into the fun of the occasion, there was a real party atmosphere – it has made the build up to Christmas all the more exciting for me.
“I can’t believe how many people were there, waiting from early afternoon, for the event – it’s obviously one of the highlights of the year for Warrington.
“I thought Misstasia were excellent, and I loved their version of Disney classics. Also, it was great to meet the Warrington Wolves players, they’ve obviously got a huge following in the town.
“And, of course, I am very grateful to Santa for taking time out of his busy schedule, getting ready for Christmas, to come along to Golden Square for the lights switch-on.
“I love this time of year, there’s an electric atmosphere here in Warrington, it’s so lovely for children and families to get together to celebrate and spend time choosing gifts for their loved ones.”
Britain’s Got Talent girl band Misstasia performed a medley of Disney tunes and led a Christmas singalong , which the bumper sized crowd delighted in joining in.
Also there were big name Warrington Wolves players – including Ashton Sims, Kevin Penny, James Laithwaite and new-boy Jack Hughes – who revealed the team’s new kits for 2016 live on stage.
Claire Gamble, Wolves’ fan engagement executive, said: “It was fantastic for the club to be involved in what is such a big annual event for the town. We had a great time last year and the atmosphere tonight was even better.
“We’d like to thank all at Golden Square for allowing us to take over the stage to reveal our new-look kits for 2016 – it was a great way for us to engage with our fans. The response to the players and the kits from the crowd was great to see and we’d like to thank them for their Hardwired support.”
Also making an appearance was Santa and his Elves, while the cast of this year’s Pyramid and Parr Hall’s pantomime Dick Whittington performed an extract from their show.
Right at the front of the crowd, wearing a Santa hat with flashing lights on it, was little Eddie Keeling, four, a pupil of Thelwell Infants School. He arrived early with his mum and friend Bobby Buckley, five. They managed to grab a prime spot in the Old Market Square so Eddie could get the best view possible of his two biggest heroes, Justin Fletcher and Father Christmas.
Mum Rebecca of Sandhurst Road, Warrington, said: “He wanted to get here as soon as possible as he was desperate to show off his new hat to Santa. He’s been shouting at the stage all night. Eddie’s a huge CBeebies fan and loves watching Justin as Mr Tumble. We’ve had a great time.”
Rebecca works for Warrington Council and Eddie’s dad Steven Davidson runs a record shop.
Golden Square Shopping Centre director Ian Cox said: “It’s been a fantastic night. The Christmas lights switch on is our biggest event of the year, and 2015’s has been better than ever.
“We can’t thank Justin and the rest of the cast of the show enough, it such a special occasion for our customers.
“We will be working hard to ensure the festive mood carries on here at Golden Square. Our giant reindeer Sprout and our Christmas trees have returned to the centre to give Golden Square that touch of Christmas magic.
“Our team is now busy transforming Old Market Square into a Christmas Village, which will open on November 19 until December 23.
“We are also getting ready for Black Friday, November 27, when shops will be open from 8am-8pm, with free all day parking, so people can pick up some huge bargains.”
Joyce Sutton, 67 and her brother George Bates, 62, couldn’t wait to see the lights switch on.
Joyce, of White Cross Road, Warrington, who lost her husband earlier in the year, said: “George came to the same event last Christmas and said it was so good he asked me to come along with him for the 2015 lights show. It’s been fantastic, just what I needed to lift my spirits.”
George, of Compton Street, Warrington, a former Salvation Army volunteer, said the entertainment was first class.
“Justin Fletcher is so good – the adults love to watch him, almost as much as the children!” he laughed, adding: “He’s the perfect choice for a night like this, great family fun.”
Another young Cbeebies fan, Emma Conroy, five, a pupil of Stockton Heath Primary School, was lifted up in her father’s arms so she could get a good view of the stage as Justin led the enthusiastic crowd in a sing-a-long of The Hokey Cokey.
Dad Ron, a property developer who lives in Warrington, said: “Emma watches Justin Fletcher on television and he makes her laugh so much, she couldn’t wait to get here to see him live tonight. The show has been great and the crowd so friendly – well done to everyone Golden Square for putting on such a fantastic show.”
Golden Square Shopping Centre is in Warrington. The centre now has over 675,000 sq. ft. of top retail outlets including Primark, Debenhams, H&M, Next, Topshop, River Island, Beaverbrooks, Republic, Oasis, and Boots. For more information visit: www.gswarrington.com