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Wells Christmas Tide Festival 2016: Everything you need to know about the exciting event

PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 10:00 24 November 2016

Father Christmas arrives at the Wells Christmas Tide festival. Picture: Ian Burt

Father Christmas arrives at the Wells Christmas Tide festival. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

Where does Santa land first when he sets off from the North Pole? Wells of course, and from fireworks and samba to a right Dickensian Ding Dong the town gives a great north Norfolk welcome to celebrate.

Scenes from Wells Christmas Tide 2015 as Father Christmas arrives at the quay. Picture: Matthew Usher. Scenes from Wells Christmas Tide 2015 as Father Christmas arrives at the quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Wells Christmas Tide Festival is one of the most eagerly awaited events in the town’s calendar.

Set for Saturday December 3, this lively event promises plenty of singing and dancing, stalls, entertainment, food, face painting, lantern workshop and parade and the grand switching-on of the Christmas lights.

All the fun is being focused on to Staithe Street, where Wells traders are working hard to ensure the town is at its bright, sparkling and twinkling best.

It’s a rethink from last year when some horrendous weather conditions and unexpected glitches meant the planned eight day extravaganza was enjoyed, but not quite as successful as the organising committee had hoped.

Scenes from Wells Christmas Tide 2015 as Father Christmas arrives at the quay. Picture: Matthew Usher. Scenes from Wells Christmas Tide 2015 as Father Christmas arrives at the quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

So the idea is a huge and lively Christmas event on December 3 to launch the Christmas season in Wells – believed to be the only town in Britain where Father Christmas arrives by boat.

The festival fun starts at 10am on Saturday December 3 when a great big Santa sized sack of street entertainment events begin. These include the Norwich Samba Band, the Thundermental street performers, the Dickensian Ding Dong, the Ukulele Elves and a host of street buskers bringing all manner of musical styles to the streets of Wells.

Businesses are being urged to set up stalls outside their shops and light up the town by decorating their windows and buildings with sparkling illuminations.

Traders from outside Wells are also being invited to set up stalls in the Health Centre car park and on Staithe Street car park (subject to the works at The Maltings), with lots of crafts and other goodies expected.

With two Christmas trees in the town and shops, cafes and restaurants keeping the festive spirit very much in full flow during the day, there is plenty to see and do.

Join the lantern workshop in the committee’s gazebo to make your own lantern ready for the evening parade. Watch the musicians and join in the singing and dancing, and don’t miss the children’s free face painting - plus roundabouts and rides open all day on Quayside.

There’s a Christmas Tree Festival in the Congregational Hall from December 2-4 from 10am-5pm, with lots of decorated trees from local organisations. Join carol singing in the Hall from 3pm on December 4.

There are plenty more events going on during the day, building up to the traditional countdown to the turning on of the town’s Christmas Lights at 5pm by BBC Look East husband and wife presenters David Whiteley and Amelia Reynolds.

Then everyone is invited to join in the atmospheric lantern parade down Staithe Street from 6pm to The Quay. Led by Norwich Samba Band and Thundermental, it’s a magical walk where everyone is invited to bring their lanterns and torches and light up the Quay. Then everyone looks out for Santa’s arrival by boat at approximately 6.30pm, the opening of his grotto and a fantastic fireworks display.

The fireworks will light up the skies and the marshes below, a thrilling finale to the 2016 Wells Christmas Tide Festival.

Staithe Street is due to be closed to traffic from 10am until 7pm and the Quay will be closed from 4pm to 8pm to ensure there’s plenty of space for Santa to arrive from the cold, windswept north.

It was an exciting arrival last year as Santa had to battle damp and inclement winds to head to the shore, but with perfect Father Christmas timing, the winds dropped and he made his impressive entrance.

It included magnesium flare lighting up the sky as the parade arrived. Then a vessel decked in lights hove into view, carrying a man with a large sack of presents and a posse of dancing penguins. Fireworks erupted overhead as Santa stepped onto the mooring pontoon.

He was met by eager young and not so young fans as he made his way through the crowds along the quay, followed by the penguins and samba band.

This year, the arrival is set to be just as exciting, and North Norfolk District Council is waiving parking charges for the Stearman’s Yard and Staithe Street car parks on the day.

Father Christmas will be in his grotto at Pop-Inn Leisure at The Quayside during the evening, and on various dates in December. The £10 per child admission includes half an hour play at Adventure Playland, and £1 from each admission goes to Nelson’s Journey, the Norfolk charity supporting bereaved children. Book a ticket at 01328 710461.

• Find out more at www.facebook.com/xmastide

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