Stars of stage and screen lit up onlookers’ faces at Sheffield’s Christmas lights switch on, making it a real cracker of an event.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to the festive frenzy, which kicked off from noon in the city centre, with a host of glittering entertainment and activities.
Ahead of the switch being flicked, The Moor hosted a Christmas party, complete with a snow machine, giant snowmen and a live nativity play.
In the Winter Garden CBeebies characters told stories to captivated youngsters, while a fairy grotto, carol singers, craft stalls and a miniature skating rink, spread Christmas cheer throughout the Peace Gardens.
Clare Shepherd, aged 25, from Rotherham, had taken along her two-year-old son Ollie, to enjoy the festivities.
She said: “It’s nice to make a family day of it rather than just coming out in the evening when it can get a bit nippy.
“There’s a great atmosphere which is definitely helping to get people in the festive spirit.
“We’ve enjoyed the rides and stalls and now we are off to see Santa to get a present, hopefully.”
Pantomime performers starring in this year’s production of Dick Whittington at the Lyceum Theatre, including Eastenders’ Samantha Womack, joined in with the city’s festive celebrations.
In the evening X-Factor winner Sam Bailey, took to the Heart stage in the Peace Gardens to entertain the crowds, belting out her chart topper Skyscraper, as well as O Holy Night to get people in the seasonal spirit.
Speaking to The Star before her performance, the excited singer said: “It’s great to be back in Sheffield.
“I performed here as part of the X-Factor tour last year and I was previously in a band that toured a lot of the social clubs and pubs in both Sheffield and Rotherham. “I love Christmas so it’s fab to do a light switch on. I’ve bought a real Christmas tree today so I’m definitely getting in the mood.
“My family are here with me tonight, including my youngest Miley – it will be the first time she has seen mum do her thing.”
When it came to the big countdown, Sheffield’s Lord Mayor Peter Rippon, was joined on stage by Sam, as well as Father Christmas, panto performers from Dick Whittington, and last year’s Britain’s Got Talent champions Callabro.
The audience cheered as the lights sparkled into life, signalling the official start of the festive season.
David Troop, had travelled from Rotherham to see the evening entertainment with his wife Claire, and their two sets of twins, Isaac and Henry, aged 17 months, and five-year-olds Grace and Oliver.
He said: “It’s the first year we have been to the Sheffield switch on and we are very impressed.
“We wanted to come along for some family fun and to soak up the festive atmosphere.
“The entertainment so far has been great.”
Following the lights switch on, Callabro continued to entertain onlookers with songs including White Christmas and Frozen’s Let it Go.
Speaking to The Star, band member Richard Auger, said: “We’re so excited to be here in Sheffield.
“Normally we would be going to our local switch ons to see celebrities performing on the stage and can’t believe we have been asked to perform at such events this year.”
Other attractions during the day and evening included a programme of creative events delivered by Ignite Imaginations at various locations across the city.
As well as staging drama, dance and music performances, the Sheffield art organisation provided opportunities for both children and adults join in with workshops, such as screen printing Christmas cards and creating ice lanterns.
This year’s Christmas market, housed in wooden cabins within the Peace Gardens and along Fargate, also drew the crowds.
Its independent traders sell a wide variety of gifts, jewellery, crafts and fresh produce.
The market will continue from 10am to 6pm daily throughout November.
In December, it will be open until 8pm each Wednesday.
Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture at Sheffield Council, said: “I’m really pleased we were able to offer a full programme of entertainment for this year’s Christmas lights switch-on.
“I think the programme particularly appealed to families, with entertainment ranging from children’s television favourites through to pop stars. There were also traditional carol singers.
“I’m sure it encouraged people to visit the city centre to experience the switch-on and also to do some Christmas shopping, perhaps to pick up an unusual gift at the markets, experience the temporary skating rink and last - but not least – to enjoy some festive food and drink.”