LARGE crowds defied the damp weather on Saturday afternoon and turned out on the Grove to enjoy an afternoon of entertainment and fun hosted by Nick Hancock of Stray FM.

The local market did brisk business throughout the afternoon whilst Bradford Concert Band and Guiseley Brass Band played seasonal music.

The gathering crowd were treated to performances by Ilkley Gym Club, Ilkley Rock Choir and the Performance Dance School, Burley.

Finally, the moment that everyone had been waiting for. Out of the darkness appeared a white, horse drawn carriage carrying Father Christmas and his three little helpers.

The Town Crier Isabel Ashman led the procession to Christchurch where they were greeted by the Ilkley Town Mayor, Cllr Mark Stidworthy and his wife. Following a brief walkabout, Father Christmas made his way up the steps at Christchurch and led the traditional countdown before he pushed the familiar ‘plunger’.

The town ‘lit up’. Christmas had come to Ilkley!

Ilkley Town Mayor Mark Stidworthy said: “It was wonderful to see the Grove packed with families for the switch on.

“The expectant and joyful atmosphere, fantastic local performers, treats from the market around the bandstand and Santa’s arrival in his horse drawn carriage set the scene beautifully.

“I’m really grateful to the many voluntary groups and individuals who helped Cllr Jennifer Souter and Louise Close, our Town Clerk, to organise the event, including Christchurch, Rotary, Ilkley 41 Club, current and former Councillors and Town Council staff, and their families.

“Also to our sponsors Booths and Ilkley Carnival, whose calendar sales helped to support the town Christmas tree.

“We hope that everybody enjoyed themselves and left energised for their countdown to Christmas.”