CHRISTMAS got off to a cracking start on Friday as thousands of people arrived in Harborough town centre for Late Night Shopping.
With a road closure in place, people were free to wander the streets, ensuring a relaxed atmosphere on the night.
The smell of candy floss and roasting chestnuts filled the air as children played on the many fairground rides.
Stallholders enjoyed great success, raising funds for their good causes and promoting their club to the many people at the event.
Tony Sutton, of People’s Accessible Transport for Harborough, said: “I think we made £220 with our tombola.
He said they also had someone come forward who was interested in assisting the group as a volunteer driver.
Mr Sutton thanked Wilkinsons, Boots and Waitrose for donating prizes and Harborough Tool Hire for supplying them with a generator and lighting for the night.
Glyn Panter, of Braybrooke Cricket Club, said: “It has gone really well and we have been well supported. We will probably make about £50.”
Kerry Summers, who was on The Squires Effect stand, said: “It was very windy but we had a lot of interest. The Squires Effect did very well with a tombola to win jars of sweets, it was extremely popular.
“We had Peppa Pig, which drew large crowds and lots of photograph opportunities.
“We were handing out leaflets which showed the itinerary of events for 2013, including the Hollywood glamour ball, sponsored walk and many other activities to raise awareness of what the charity is.”
Reindeer appeared at the top end of the High Street where crowds of children gathered to see them.
There was also a mini tank driven by Combat 656 and an army jeep provided by paintball centre Armourgeddon.
The top end of the High Street was given an extra special festive feel thanks to a snow machine and a number of proud looking Christmas tress.
More than 600 mince pies were donated and given away in St Dionysius Church, with hot mulled wine, by the Rotarians of Market Harborough Club.
The church choir led carol singing and the church was packed with people.
Cash donations for the wine and pies raised £450 which will go to Rotary charity Hope and Homes for Children, and to St Dionysius church funds.
Club president Ian Clarkson said: “It was good to be giving people mulled wine to warm them up, and the mince pies went down a treat. Rotarians enjoy serving the community in many different ways.”
Organising committee chairman Martin Hill said: “I Thought it went very well.
“I’m very pleased with it. I thought there was quite a lot of people in the town from early on.
“In the main people were very happy and relaxed and were getting into the Christmas spirit.”
Shops put on mulled wine and glasses of fizzy to draw in the crowds and many people were taking advantage of a chance to get gifts on the night.
Regular Late Night Shopping attendee Miriam Barnett said: “It’s very nice, really good this year.
“I like The Square and the tree is lovely.”
Stalls and entertainment were spread around more this year with a bandstand provided by Waitrose which was set up in Northampton Road. Music acts performed all over the town centre. Rock on the Rec and Room for Music had a stage on Adam and Eve Street while Harborough Band were playing at the top end of the High Street.
Mike Heaps, of Room for Music, said ”Extremely proud of the Room for Music band, they put on an awesome performance, especially considering they’ve only been together for six weeks and our youngest is only ten years old.
“They totally rocked it and had the biggest crowd of the night! We’re hoping for a lot more Harborough gigs with the Rock on the Rec crew in 2013 so keep an eye on roomformusic.co.uk for more details and to get involved.”
Drummers were a drumming through the streets of the town thanks reat Bowden Recital Trust, and there was also carol singing.
The winner of the best window display was No 10 The Flower Shop in Church Street which was entering the contest for the first time.
They won a box of chocolates and a bottle of champagne.
Lynda Stamp from No 10 said: “There was a lovely atmosphere. It is nice to see all of your friends as well as customers new and old.”
The Loros charity shop in Coventry Road won the best dressed staff, choosing a theme of Ali Baba.
Loros has previously won best dressed window and staff and this year also won a bottle of champagne and box of chocolates.
Shop manager Brenda Welsh said: “We always dress up for our customers because they like it, they are always asking what we are going to do next year.
Leicester Tigers rugby players could be seen relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.
Resident Colin Stone, of Harborough, said: “There is a lot of good will I suppose and you probably meet somebody you haven’t seen for a while.”