Snow and Santa greet families as Christmas decorations are launched in Northampton

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DOZENS of children enjoyed the switch on of thousands of lights on the biggest Christmas tree Northampton has ever seen.

The crowd cheered as Strictly Come Dancing’s Brian Fortuna switched on the lights on the 60ft tree in the Market Square at the culmination of a festive launch event on Saturday.

A flurry of “snowfall” added to the atmosphere as lights went on across the town centre.

This year also saw the introduction of a satellite link for children to speak to Father Christmas at the North Pole.

Several times during the afternoon Father Christmas appeared on a large screen in the square to read children’s letters and speak to them.

Hosted by John Griff, of BBC Radio Northampton, there was nearly three hours of entertainment, including performances from singer Leanne Boyes and winner of Northampton’s Got Talent 2011, Lauren Jones, as well as street theatre and craft workshops.

Stars from the Royal & Derngate’s Christmas productions also made an appearance on the stage.

Alice and the Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland, made balloon animals, while Basil Brush, starring in the pantomime, Aladdin, joined Father Christmas on the satellite link.

Aladdin himself, dancer and performer Brian Fortuna, also signed autographs.

Northampton borough council leader, councillor David Mackintosh (Rectory Farm, Con), said: “I think it was a great event for families and bringing people back into the town centre.”

He said beaming in Father Christmas and Basil Brush was a novel idea, and added: “It was great to see everyone with a smile on their face. It was a good turnout and it was great to see the Christmas magic with the snow.”