HIGHCLIFFE commenced their festive celebrations as thousands of people turned out for their Christmas lights switch on.

Parish council chairman Bob Hutchins was accompanied by panto characters from Highcliffe Charity Players to flick the switch and light the town’s Christmas tree and high street.

The event, organised by the Highcliffe Action Team (HAT), took place outside Tesco Express and attracted nearly 1,500 people, five times the amount last year.,

A spokesman from the Highcliffe Action Team said: “We were completely overwhelmed with this year’s attendance.

“The feedback has been so positive, and a little bit of festive magic definitely returned to Highcliffe last Friday. HAT are now working on hosting a clifftop music festival next year so continue to need the help and support of the community.”

Santa Claus chose not to use his sleigh and instead was borne down the high-street by an open-top Yellow Bus, followed by a lantern procession with local children and Brownies groups.

After his short bus journey, Santa moved to his grotto, featuring for the first time this year – thanks to The Oaks restaurant’s sponsorship. Many children came and visited Father Christmas and had photos taken with him and his elves.

Residents were made to feel festive thanks to Christmas songs performed by James Emmett Rag Revellers, Highcliffe Charity Players and Fifnellas.

Chris Watson Butchers provided food and Highcliffe Bakery sold cakes and pastries, with many shops along the high street staying open late.