Lochaber Rotary forced to cancel annual Fort Christmas festival

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One of the most popular community events in Fort William, the annual Rotary Christmas Festival and Craft fair, has had to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus situation.

Along with every other organisation, Lochaber Rotary is having to change direction in the lead up to Christmas.

The Rotary Christmas Festival and Craft Fair, which takes place in the town towards the end of November, has become a popular event in recent years with bustling crowds the norm.

However, with the current restrictions it has become clear that managing activities such as Santa’s Grotto, queuing, cash handling and movement around the town’s Nevis Centre would prove close to impossible. While the reindeer could walk side by side, only Santa could ride in the sleigh and everyone else on the parade would need to be physically distanced.

The Lochaber Times has also regularly sponsored the associated Christmas card competition to find the two youngsters who will fill the roles of Santa’s elves on his sleigh for the parade. However, Lochaber Rotary said this week that, in order to ensure the safety of all the participants, it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that the decision has been taken to cancel this year’s event.

However, Lochaber Rotary’s work continues and it is pleased to announce ‘Knitivity’ – an ambitious community project to create a 13-foot  high Christmas tree made from hand-knitted or crocheted items that will form the decorative cladding to a steel framework. The tree will be on display in the lead up to Christmas.

Organiser Sheana Fraser explained:  ‘It will take a huge effort to cover the framework currently under construction. The surface area will be around 500 square feet, so we may need 1,000 items.’

People can be involved in several ways; either by knitting or crocheting, by donating yarn or donating money to allow Rotary to buy yarn.

Chunky or double knitting yarns give quick results and Lochaber Rotary is asking folk to choose bright colours. The club is looking for items which will provide warmth such as hats, scarves, wrist warmers, etc. These will then be donated to homeless charities after Christmas.

‘We are also looking for handmade twiddle muffs for donation to Alzheimer Scotland and local care homes. Twiddle muffs are knitted muffs with items attached such as buttons, ribbons, etc to keep dementia patients’ hands active and busy, and are a source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation,’ added a club spokesperson.

Yeoman yarns, Woolyknit, Hobbycraft and Togs in Caol have donated yarn for the project so if anyone needs yarn, please get in touch. Woolwarehouse, an online supplier, is offering a 10 per cent discount on orders submitted with a designated code.

If you need more information then please contact either Sheana Fraser
07796 687921 or Jenny Cooper 07880 958698.

Rotary President Richard Baxter added: ‘While Covid-19 has given us plenty challenges there are opportunities and scope for some fun too. Please help us by getting behind this imaginative idea.’