Panto and television star Denise Welch turned on the Christmas lights in Northampton town centre tonight with the aid of fireworks, fake snow and a horse and carriage.
Former Coronation Street and Celebrity Big Brother star, who is to appear in Cinderella at the Derngate this year, was joined by Father Christmas to perform the annual switch-on.
She had earlier arrived in Abington Street in a horse and carriage and enjoyed a ride on the carousel with leader of Northampton Borough Council, David Mackintosh.
After turning on the lights, fake snow was shot into the air, while sparklers erupted from nearby shops.
Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo, Ms Welch said: “I am thrilled there are so many people here. I had never been to Northampton before the panto launch and it is really exciting to be here and to be spending Christmas here.
“I am doing my last Loose Women show tomorrow and then I will be coming back to ‘pantoland’ for rehearsals on Monday. I am very excited because I haven’t done a pantomime for five years.”
The former Dancing On Ice star also revealed she was looking forward to honing her skating skills on the new ice rink in the Market Square, in between performances of the pantomime, which is also starring Bobby Davro.
She added: “I am delighted to be in Northampton. Bobby is a master craftsman of pantomime and it is going to be just what panto should be - fun.”
Earlier, the panto cast from A Christmas Carol, which is at the Royal, performed on stage, along with music from the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust.
This year’s festive decorations in Northampton will include seven 30 foot tall tree, one 40 foot and one 50 foot Christmas trees in prime locations across the town centre, including the Market Square, the Guildhall, outside All Saints’ Church and in Abington Street.
Around 100 smaller Christmas trees will be put up outside town centre shops and businesses thanks to funding from the Northampton Town Centre BID.
Councillor Mackintosh said: “It is fantastic to see the town lit up and to have so many people here.
“Christmas is an important time for businesses, that is why we are doing all of this. We want people to shop here, to buy their Christmas presents here and to visit all of our venues and cafes and restaurants while they are here.”
Asked about the Christmas activities in the town this year, Stephen Chown, from the BID, added: “It has created exactly the right environment for people to come and enjoy themselves and do their shopping and have fun in our streets.”
For details of what is happening in Northampton this Christmas visit www.christmasinnorthampton.co.uk.