CHRISTMAS trees sparkled and lit up a church as the hard work of hundreds of people shone brightly.
Nearly 80 trees have been decorated by hundreds of volunteers at the St Mary’s Church Alverstoke Christmas Tree Festival in Gosport.
Last night the crowd sat in the packed church in darkness counting down to the mayor of Gosport Cllr Keith Gill switching on the lights.
Cllr Gill said: ‘This is a great celebration, I do feel coming in here it’s like a little haven of tranquillity.
‘It’s really nice to see them, we’ve got charities, schools and businesses’ trees here.
‘That’s probably in some way an impressive expansion that local businesses bother to come and do this.’
The annual festival’s opening saw 77 trees put up in the church and the Lowry Girls performed carols for the crowd.
Mandy Newton, 28, was with her partner David Rose, 32, their son Caelan Rose, four, and his grandmother Karen Rose, 63.
Mandy, from Gosport, said: ‘It’s the first time we’ve done down here, the family said to come down. It’s a really lovely atmosphere, it’s good to have so many people around. It’s nice to have the community come together.’
Around 2,800 people paid a visit to the four-day festival last year.
There will be around 900 performers at the festival throughout today and the weekend.
Ann Hindson, 43, from Elson, was in the crowd with her son Harrison Carr, three, and his grandmother Brenda Reading, 71.
Ann said: ‘I wanted to bring Harrison for his first Christmas service.
‘It was just a good thing to do as a family.
‘It has made me feel very much like Christmas.’
Harrison attends Hopscotch Nursery in Lee-on-the-Solent.
The nursery was one of the groups to decorate a tree.
Laura Goulder, 29, from the nursery, said: ‘It’s just good to show off the children’s art work.
‘It’s a nice community event – all of our children from the nursery have come along.
‘It’s a good event to start Christmas.’
Rob Hamilton is the chairman of the festival. He said: ‘It’s quite a remarkable effort from the community. The aim of this is to bring the community together.’
The festival was due to open from 11am today until 6pm.
From 6.30pm to 10pm there will be a Come and Sing Messiah event.
Tomorrow and Sunday the event is open 11am to 6pm.