Rotary Christmas festival draws crowds as Santa wows youngsters

Prize winning elves Phoebe MacDonald (left) and Poppy Geddes brought Christmas cheer to crowds in Cameron Square waiting for the Santa processions to start. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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It was a cold but bright November morning on Saturday as the festive season opened with Santa leading his team of Cairngorm reindeer through Fort William.

The sleigh was led by the Lochaber Pipe Band, junior cheerleaders from the Ben Nevis Allstars, and Santa was helped by the winners of the Lochaber Times’s ‘Paint Rudolph’ competition.

The Lochaber Pipe Band led Santa’s sleigh to the Nevis Centre. Photograph Iain Ferguson. alba.photos

Hundreds of entries came in for the competition and the winners were Phoebe MacDonald, seven, from Mallaig Primary and Poppy Geddes, eight, from Lady Lovat Primary who got to ride with Santa in his sleigh from Cameron Square to the Nevis Centre.

Ken Johnston of the Lochaber Rotary Club said: ‘This was the most entries we have ever had for the competition with 340 coming from all over Lochaber. With most of them coming from the built-up areas it was amazing that the two winners came from the west coast.’

The Nevis Centre was the site of the Designer Craft and Food Fair with 72 stalls showcasing Lochaber’s wide range of quality crafts and food, Santa’s grotto, a bouncy castle, buskers’ corner and a grand raffle, so the thousands of visitors were well catered for.

Stallholders reported healthy business throughout the day with quality artwork, local cheese, meats and other crafts and food on sale.

Alasdair Ferguson, managing director of Ferguson Transport and Shipping, principal sponsors of the event, said: ‘We were once again delighted to continue this year to fund the Cairngorm reindeer parade for the Rotary Club of Lochaber’s 12th annual Christmas festival. The event was a great success building on previous years’ successes.

‘Every year the Rotary Club works tirelessly to provide the local community with this fantastic event for all the family. We are delighted to support them again this year and are willing to continue for many years to come.’

Lochaber Rotary Club president Clive Talbot, while emphasising that the festival is more about a community event and enabling an outlet for local craftworkers, than about raising money, thanked Alasdair for the continued sponsorship.

He added: ‘I would like to thank everyone who has made this such a successful day – the stallholders, the Nevis Centre staff, the Cairngorm reindeer company and Phoebe and Poppy, fellow Rotarians and, most of all, the public. Thanks again to everyone, and we hope to see you all back next year.’