BICESTER was full of festive cheer as the town came together to mark the launch of Christmas.

Thousands of people came into the town throughout the day and helped make the event a great success.

One of the highlights was the lantern making and parade event, which was organised by OYAP, and involved scores of children holding their dazzling lanterns, and walking from the Methodist Church around the town centre and finishing in Market Square.

The mayor then had the “difficult” job of choosing the three best lanterns, and their creators were then invited onto stage to help turn on the town’s Christmas lights.

The winners were Aisling, Martha and Billy Ray who, as part of their prize, helped the town mayor Sean Gaul, press the all-important switch to light up the town ready for the festive season.

Organised by Bicester Town Council, the annual event took place on a Saturday for the first time in a bid to encourage more people to the event and to support town centre businesses.

Mr Gaul said: “It was fantastic to see so many people in the town enjoying the Christmas lights event.

“We moved the event to a Saturday to give more people the opportunity to come along, and I think we can safely say it was a huge success.

“I was very impressed by the acts who performed on the stage – the line-up showed just how many talented people we have in the town.

“For me the highlight was switching on the Christmas lights. It was a very difficult decision to pick lantern winners, but it was an honour to share the stage with Aisling, Martha and Billy Ray.

“None of this would have been possible without sponsorship from local businesses. We would especially like to thank Bicester Village and K2 Recruitment for their significant contribution to the event.”

Throughout the day, which coincided with Small Business Saturday, there was a host activities and entertainment, such as traditional toddler fair rides, Huskies, and street entertainers including roller-skating baubles, cheeky elves and the Snow King and Queen.

OneBicester organised a Christmas market with stalls selling arts and crafts, gifts and traditional festive refreshments.

The Market Square hosted the main stage and there were performances from a host of local groups including Bicester Rock choir, local bands Bangtail Feathers and Rhythm Street and students from Adele Peters Performing Arts School who performed on stage and took part in a ‘flash-mob’ dance outside Sainsbury’s in Pioneer Square.

Entertainment was also provided by drummers and a fire entertainer in the centre of Market Square. The event culminated with the switch-on from the stage followed by a light show.