Jaws dropped yesterday as a trio of community figuresÂ rodeÂ camels through the heart of Leigh Park.Â
The stunt marked an offbeat launch to the first Starlight Festival at St Francis'Â Church in Riders Lane.Â
A resident of the Havant suburb for more than 20 years, carer and mother-of-four Nicky Parker was one of three lucky riders picked to lead the procession.Â
'˜This isn't something you get to do everyday '“Â I'd say it's the opportunity of a lifetime,' the 43-year-old said.Â
'˜I've lived in Leigh Park for more than 20 years and I wouldn't live anywhere else.Â
'˜It's events like this today '“Â and the fireworks [at Stockheath Common] in November, which Leigh Park paid forÂ '“Â that prove what a fantastic community this is.'Â
Mounting the two other camels were Riders Junior School headteacher Lisa Dunning and PCSO Lisa Moore, who '˜thought she was at the festival for routine community engagement'.
Her colleague, PCSO Sharon Sadler, said: '˜She's one of the neighbourhood officersÂ at Havant and it's her birthday today, so we thought it would be good fun for her to be doing something different.Â
'˜She had absolutely no clue she would be doing this and she turned up here in full uniform.'Â
The camels, which belong to Warwickshire firm Joseph's Amazing Camels and have previously starred in film and television,Â formed a procession to the Greywell Shopping Centre before returning to the church.Â
There, hundreds of residents enjoyed festive stalls in aid of a number of good causes '“Â including the food poverty-fighting Munch project, which runs at Park Community School.Â
Eight-year-old Nancy-MaeÂ Wright ran a stall selling festive trinkets she has made herself, with all proceeds going to the PO9 food bank which runs from the church.Â
'˜I wanted to do something to make people feel happy and have a great time, this is a lot of fun,' she said.Â
'˜The food bank is so important because it helps others who don't have much at Christmas.'
Reverend Jonathan Jeffrey, vicar of Leigh Park and Warren Park, said: '˜The Starlight Festival is all part of our offer to the community to say 'you deserve the veryÂ best'.'Â