Despite England playing in the World Cup on Friday night, residents came out in their droves to the Christmas Festival on Friday evening to kick off the festive season in town.
The Mayor and the Town Crier opened the show on the big stage in front of the Town Hall at 5.00pm with the Mayor saying, “Good evening everyone. It gives me huge pleasure to open our Henley Christmas Festival 2022. Enjoy the next couple of hours we’ve got some great entertainment. ”
Afterwards on the stage, Stagecoach young children entertained the audience with some dance performances. They were followed by former Olympic skier and Henley resident, Graham Bell with his friend Ben Hargreaves and BJ from Glow Festival who set the audience a challenge to beat their numbers on the skiers-edge ergo machine with the chance to win free tickets to Glow this week. The cast of the Kenton panto, Aladdin really got the audience going with a short preview of what you’ll expect from this year’s show.
The Mayor then returned to switch on the lights with winner of the Christmas card competition, Johnny Pratt from St Mary’s School. The Mayor commented beforehand, that “I’ve had sleepless nights about the tree but I’m sure it’s going to look lovely when the lights get switched on. This night would not be possible without Invesco because they sponsor our tree every single year and we’re so lucky to have that gift to Henley.” The crowds were then invited to sing Christmas carols around the tree led by Daisy Smith and accompanied by the Woodley Concert Band.
There were many local fundraising stalls and shops with Laurence Morris raising money for the Chiltern Centre by selling mulled wine and mince pies. Tombolas are always a good fundraiser with the RNLI, Henley Youth Festival and MotherSisterDaughter all running these. MotherSisterDaughter raised an amazing £700 from a bottle tombola.
At the Christ Church Centre this year, children could visit the free Santa’s Grotto which was sponsored by Invesco and local businesses. Families were invited to purchase raffle tickets to raise money for The Chiltern Centre.
In Harris + Hoole, children could also meet Santa when they brought their gifts for children with cancer for the #operationelarasmile who will be in John Radcliffe on Christmas Day. Elara sadly passed away from cancer aged just 3 in March last year. Her Mum Nicky will be taking the toys, games and puzzles to the children. They also set up an Elliott Elf Station where you could add toppings to any drinks for a donation to Elliott Peto (aged 5) who is very ill with a rare sarcoma cancer. Donations will be used for making Elliott’s final days memorable and comfortable as well as raising awareness of the cancer.
The fairground rides and stalls were as popular as ever which included a helter-skelter, test-your-strength hammer blow, flying aeroplanes, swing boats and inflatable dodgem cars.