CHRISTMAS cheer and festive fun were the order of the day as towns across the area were transformed into winter wonderlands.
Thousands turned out to watch as Christmas lights across Hayling Island, Lee-on-the-Solent and Portchester were turned on last night.
Pompey legend Alan Knight switched on Portchester’s illuminations, while Gosport’s mayor, councillor Lynn Hook flicked the switch in Lee-on-the-Solent in front of a bumper crowd, in the High Street.
She was accompanied by the head boy and girl of Lee-on-the-Solent Junior School, Joseph Turner, 10, and Willow McAlister, 10.
Excited Joseph said: ‘I was really nervous switching on the lights with all those people watching.’
Willow added: ‘It was amazing seeing so many people here. It’s been a great night.’
The event was again staged by Lee-on-the-Solent Business Association.
The High Street was closed and turned into a late-night shopping precinct, complete with a French market, stalls, a petting zoo, children’s rides and a Santa’s grotto.
Scores of families joined in with carols around the High
Street’s Christmas tree.
Members of the Solent Brass Band performed.
Cllr Hook was overwhelmed by the turnout and said it was a great boost for the town’s businesses.
She added: ‘This is a real community event that always brings everyone out.
‘It’s just a wonderful, magical evening.’
In Hayling, more than 1,000 people packed into the town’s centre.
Mengham Road was full of attractions, from children’s rides to Father Christmas.
Traders stayed open extra late to give people a chance to buy the perfect Christmas present.
The lights were switched on by Havant mayor councillor Faith Ponsonby.
Some 60 children from the island’s two junior schools added to the festive magic by singing carols.
There were also performances from The Glee Club of The Hayling College, a Christmas handbells concert and songs from the talented youngsters of The Hayling Young Starts.
The night was this year staged by the Hayling Island Lions Club.
Marilyn Skennerton, of the Lions, said it was a brilliant night, adding: ‘It has been absolutely amazing. We had hundreds of people watching the lights switch-on. We must have had at least 1,000 people this year. It was packed.’