THE magic of Christmas came to Leigh Park as Santa’s grotto opened its sparkling doors.
Children’s faces lit up in awe as they walked into the winter wonderland and were greeted by huge reindeer teddies, Santa’s Express miniature railway, mountains of presents, Santa’s sleigh and twinkling lights.
The grotto was officially opened by the Mayor of Havant, Gerald Shimbart, at the Greywell Centre yesterday.
There was lots of happy swaying and jigging among the crowds as children from three local schools – Trosnant, Front Lawn and St Thomas More’s – sang their hearts out.
The audience was treated to well-rehearsed renditions of Silent Night and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, to name but a few.
Cllr Shimbart cut the ribbon to open the grotto, which has taken a month to create by hard-working volunteers from the Leigh Park Christmas Grotto group.
Their 18 volunteers – many of whom were dressed as elves yesterday – will work right through to Christmas to give the children of the estate a wonderful experience.
First to sit on Father Christmas’s knee was two-year-old Cohan Thomas.
His grandad, Peter Fradgley, 68, of Ramsdale Avenue, Leigh Park, said: ‘He was a bit nervous – it’s all new to him.
‘He just said what he wanted for Christmas. He likes toys, although he has most of them!’
Charlotte Crawford, 20, and Adam Gant, 23, of Locksheath Close, Leigh Park, brought along their one-year-old baby, Ernie.
Charlotte said: ‘It’s really good. It’s for Christmas and there’s always a lot going on.’
Adam added: ‘He really likes the reindeers.’
Hannah Swarbrick, a teacher at Trosnant Junior School, said the children had had a fantastic time.
She said: ‘It’s a great opportunity for the children to bring a bit of joy to everyone around them but also improve their own singing skills and their own confidence.’
Cllr Shimbart said: ‘It’s a wonderful event. Hopefully I’ll be able to sit on Santa’s knee – but I doubt it!
The grotto was made possible by £4,000-worth of grants, including cash from Havant-based firm Pfizer, the Leigh Park Regeneration Fund and county councillor Ann Buckley.
A total of 1,500 presents have been beautifully wrapped and are ready to be given out.
Children also get a special badge.
Yvonne Weeks, a volunteer, said: ‘It’s fantastic. It takes a year to get it set up.
‘We are a voluntary group that gives the children of Leigh Park and their families a magical experience in coming to the grotto.’
Opening times are 10am to 4.15pm and entry is £2.
The grotto will be open today then Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the next fortnight. It will be open every day in the week leading up to Christmas with the final day on December 22.