FINAL preparations are being made to ensure the biggest seasonal celebrations in Barnard Castle's recent past go off in style this weekend.
The highlight of a host of events organised by the Dickens in Teesdale group and Barnard Castle Town Council will be a spectacular sound and light show tomorrow evening (Saturday, December 1) The Son et Lumiere will take place at 6pm, with a script written and narrated by popular TV presenter John Grundy.
The show is to be beamed onto the walls of the town’s medieval castle.
Telling the tale of author Charles Dickens’ visit to Teesdale in this, the bicentenary of his birth, it features an opening performance by the acclaimed Turrets drama group and concludes with a firework finale.
Last weekend, the town's Christmas tree, a gift from Lord Barnard's Raby Estate, was lifted into place, and final festive street lighting displays were fitted ready for this weekend's celebrations.
There will be a festive air throughout the town on Saturday, with Barnard Castle Farmers’ Market stalls staying open later, street entertainment and stunning shop window displays. Many of the town’s shops and eateries will remain open late too.
The celebrations begin in earnest at 4.15pm with Santa arriving in style.
He will be joined by some special friends including Charles Dickens, portrayed by another well known TV face, Bargain Hunt’s David Harper, who will help switch on the tree lights.
Santa will then head to his grotto in the Methodist Church Hall on Scar Top.
There will also be an opportunity to join members of the town’s YMCA who will be providing an interactive elves’ workshop, face painting and seasonal refreshments in the same hall before the light show begins.
Prizes for the best dressed shop window will also be distributed on Saturday evening.
Festive fun continues on Sunday, December 2, with the Friends of Barnard Castle School's Christmas Fair, between 10.30am and 3pm.
There will be a wide range of goods to choose from and Santa will drop in on the event.
Barnard Castle Mayor, Councillor Frank Harrison, said a lot of hard work had gone into ensuring the town's Christmas festival was a success.
“I hope it will give the town a boost in the run up to Christmas,” said Coun Harrison, who will be donning Dickensian costume as well as the chains of office for the event. “There is a whole load of stuff going on and I hope everyone goes along an enjoys themselves.”
Funding for the Christmas Festival is being made available by Dickens in Teesdale through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union; Leader; Teesdale Area Action Partnership and Barnard Castle Town Council, and other sponsorship.