Sheffield’s festive celebrations started with a bang - as thousands gathered for the big switch-on of the city’s Christmas lights.
Families enjoyed a busy day out in advance of the Peace Gardens countdown, with Fargate, Barker’s Pool, The Moor and Millennium Square all packed with attractions.
Pressing the button was Santa himself with help from Sheffield’s newest sporting hero Nick Matthew, three times World Squash Champion.
He was joined by Lord Mayor Coun Vickie Priestley and Real Radio DJs Dixie and Gayle, who introduced a series of stage sensations including Michael Buble tribute act Kai McKenzie.
Fairground rides spun on Pinstone Street, youngsters packed aboard the Polar Express and visited Santa’s Grotto, and mums and dads enjoyed seasonal snifters in the Sleigh Bar.
Carollers and street entertainers added to the fun, while favourite cartoon, TV and film characters came to life on the Town Hall steps, including the Despicable Me minions.
A display of vehicles from the Sheffield Fire and Police Museum drew the crowds, as did Fargate’s traditional Christmas market with more than 40 stalls selling food, seasonal goodies and handmade crafts.
It was the first time Barnsley gran Liz Sterland had enjoyed Sheffield’s Christmas City experience, in the company of grandson Oliver, three next month, and son Liam.
All three were queuing to see Santa in his grotto.
“It’s a good idea to make it such a big event,” she said. “I think the Christmas lights here are still a big attraction and they really make the city centre come alive - they draw people in.”
So much so 1.8 million people are expected to visit over the festive period, according to council estimates.
Lindsay Cartwright, 29, and friend Toni Carrigan, 28, both from Westfield, were in town with their toddlers Millen and Shi, both aged one.
“We come every year and there’s more to do this year than in the past,” Lindsay said.
“I don’t think it’s too early - it’s really the start of Christmas for me as I like a big build-up. It gets me in the mood because I think once Christmas Day has gone that’s it - New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean that much to me.”
Also enjoying a family day out was Sue Kendall from Low Edges with her granddaughter Eva, two, husband Paul and son Jamie.
“I think it’s a lovely day out, it’s a great atmosphere and the lights are making me feel Christmassy,” she said.
“It’s the first time we’ve been and it’s good to see such a big event filling the city centre.”
Sylvia Smith, who lives off Ecclesall Road, was with Gary Eades and eight-year-old Josh - who had enjoyed the fire engine display.
“My only complaint is it’s not really cold enough yet for Christmas!” she said.
“For me this is the start of Christmas - the lights may be on already at Meadowhall and other places but that’s not the same somehow. I prefer the city centre and we all enjoy the big switch on.”