Record Breaking Switch On Event By Lancaster BID To Launch Festive Season

26th November 2018

Thousands of visitors flocked to Lancaster city centre on Sunday 25th November, to take part in a festive day of fun. The annual Lancaster BID Christmas Lights Switch On event returned, alongside Santa dash, festive 5K, fairground rides, lantern making, face painting and ice rink!
The Lancaster BID Christmas Lights Switch On certainly was the best one yet, and broke previous events footfall records. Footfall cameras on Penny Street and Market Street, showed that this year's switch on event was 2.3% busier than the switch on event in 2017. Compared to 2017, the event also saw a 24% increase in footfall for the lights being turned on and headline act - this was 5.1% busier footfall than the previous busiest ever switch on event in 2015!
This year Lancaster BID expanded their efforts and had two stages. A family stage with fairground rides was created in Dalton Square, to help launch the opening weekend of Lancaster On Ice. This provided an additional family element to the day, and gave local acts a chance to perform as part of this hugely successful event. This stage saw Diddi Dance, The Greatest Showman Show and the Prince and Princess Show featured, amongst others and was compered by HEART's Chris Kirk. 
The Santa Dash returned, this year with the inclusion of a festive 5k, for those wanting an extra challenge! 205 Santa's dashed around Lancaster city centre, with the youngest Santa being 11 months old and the oldest Santa 78 years old!
Richard Cogger, Community Fundraiser for CancerCare said: "We had the most participants that we've had in recent years. This year was the launch of our festive 5K race, which proved popular for people wanting a bit more of a test! It was great to be part of the Lancaster BID Switch On Event again this year, it's always a hugely popular day and we hope to be involved for many years to come."
The child who raised the most money for CancerCare also got to turn the Christmas lights on, with Santa and the headline acts. This year Ethan Howse, who raised £400 won this money can't buy prize!
The highlight of the day was once again the main stage show in Market Square. The stage show featured popular acts to cater for a range of demographics, including giving more local acts a chance to shine. The event was compered by HEART's Danny Matthews and Chris Kirk. Ben Haenow headlined the event, alongside Children's TV presenter Andy Day, who was extremely popular with young families. There were also performances from Zoe Unsworth, Emelia, Jack Rose, Ricky Birchall, Tony Sullivan, Sara Cheston and local acts The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster Grand Theatre, Stagecoach School Choir, Laura Sandham's School of Dance and drumming band Samba Espirito. 
Organisers, Lancaster BID also ran a competition to meet and greet the headliners, which saw 20 delighted fans and 6 thrilled families meet their idols.  
The lights being switched on also didn't disappoint. This year's Christmas lights were enhanced by two 20ft real Christmas trees standing tall behind the stage, funded by the businesses of Lancaster (via Lancaster BID) and this year sponsored by Holdens Solicitors. The lights displayed on the two trees on the museum steps were jointly purchased by Lancaster BID and Lancaster City Council, to add an extra sparkle to the city during the festive period. Lancaster BID and Lancaster City Council also jointly funded addition lights to Market Square, including the spheres and stars in the 8 trees- meaning there were more lights to switch 'on' at the event and to add some extra sparkle, to an already beautiful display in the city centre. Lancaster BID and Lancaster City Council also both spent money repairing their branch wrapped trees on Dalton Square, New Street and Cheapside this year to really make sure the city shines. 
Lancaster BID Manager, Rachael Wilkinson, said: "The Lancaster BID Christmas Lights Switch On is incredibly popular. It reliably brings in a record number of people to the city centre, bringing with them huge economic benefit for the businesses who operate here. We certainly took on a lot this year, with two stages, two races, fairground rides, two meet and greets and an ice rink. Lancaster certainly punches above its weight in many areas, and the same can definitely be said about the official launch weekend of the festive season. We've been organising this event for a number of years now, and it's great to see that we are learning and improving the event each year, which is shown by the record attendance figures at this year's event. A huge thank you needs to be given to the businesses of Lancaster, as well as partners including Electricity North West, Marketgate, St.Nics, Lancaster City Council and The Duchy of Lancaster, who all made this FREE day of festive fun possible for all to enjoy."
Martin Horner, owner of The Borough said: "We have had an excellent opening weekend for Lancaster On Ice. We've received really positive feedback on social media about it being such an inclusive initiative, that everyone can take part in. The opening ceremony on Saturday 24th November was really well attended, with a couple of hundred spectators. On both days we were extremely busy from 12pm - 8pm, with several sessions having to turn people away. To work together with Lancaster BID to include a family stage and fairground rides in Dalton Square as part of the Lancaster BID Christmas Lights Switch On was fantastic and really helped with the launch weekend of Lancaster On Ice."
The Lancaster BID Christmas Lights Switch On acts as a catalyst for Christmas shopping in Lancaster and with that comes free parking too. Each Thursday evening Lancaster will be open for late night shopping until 9pm. Lancaster City Council car parks will offer free parking on Thursday evenings from 5pm, as well as all day Sunday in the run up to Christmas.
The Lancaster BID Christmas Lights Switch On is the fourth event in Lancaster BID's 'Winter In The City' campaign, which sees an event each weekend throughout November and December. The launch of the festive seasons follows the most successful Light Up Lancaster on footfall records, Chilli Fest and Lancaster's first live 'Find The Characters' event. Still to come in the programme of events is A Musical Affair in Market Square on Sunday 2nd December and Reindeer Day on Sunday 9th December, followed by Christmas At The Castle on 15th and 16th December. 

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