Santa sails in with festive cheer

He is more at home flying through the sky in his sleigh pulled by reindeer, but during the weekend Santa took to the North Sea to bring festive cheer to a coastal town.

He is more at home flying through the sky in his sleigh pulled by reindeer, but during the weekend Santa took to the North Sea to bring festive cheer to a coastal town.

The jolly fellow arrived by boat in spectacular style at Wells on Saturday to join in with all the fun of the town's Christmas Tide 2007.

Before his grand entrance excited children from Wells Primary School made their way through the streets beating drums and carrying brightly coloured star-shaped lanterns they had made to help Santa find his way.

"We want Santa! We want Santa!" the youngsters cried as they eagerly waited by the water for the festive fellow and his elves.

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And their cheers were answered as Father Christmas appeared from the darkness in a boat twinkling with fairylights.

As he waved to the boys and girls he was welcomed with a magnificent rainbow of fireworks that exploded into the night sky.

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"It was really exciting seeing Santa arrive. It did not matter that it was cold and it had rained because it was fun carrying the lanterns and seeing Santa," said Wells Primary School pupil Willow Rose, eight.

Willow shared the view of the hundreds of people at the event who were determined to not let the wet weather ruin their Christmas fun.

"Wells Christmas Tide this year was a triumph of Christmas spirit over the weather," said Willow's dad Chris Rose, who was one of the organisers.

"It was a celebration of the town, its connection with the sea, and everything that is special about Wells - and this year we had unprecedented support from about 30 local businesses."

The special Christmas Tide Cafe in The Maltings did a roaring trade as families flocked there to shelter from the wet, and to enjoy the local food and seasonal entertainment.

Fiona MacCallum, who spent the day volunteering at the cafe, said: "The cafe was the heart and soul of this year's Wells Christmas Tide. We served hundreds of people and the cafe was a haven of music, laughter and fun to cheer up the Tiders who all got very wet! It was a fantastic day which brought the whole community together."

Some other highlights included

a talent show by Alderman Peel

High School students, Santa's grotto

at the Granary Theatre and fair-ground rides at the quay.

There were also stalls as well as musicians and entertainers throughout the day, including readings of the Christmas story, Fakenham Town Band and King's Lynn indie rock group The Cortinas.

David Colley, 49, from Wells, was at the Christmas Tide with his daughter Isabel, eight, and his sister Ann Colley, 46, from London.

He said: "We come to the Christmas Tide every year and it is wonderful that this is all organised by local people. The fireworks were especially amazing this year."

Rob Ludlam, 51, who runs the Harbour Chandlery in Wells, was also there with his family - partner Jenny Wilford, son Alex Ludlam, 27, daughter-in-law Anna, 29, and granddaughter Izzy, two.

Mr Ludlam said: "This was the best Wells Christmas Tide I have been to and it was a credit to the people who have organised it. It is just sad the weather was not better but despite the rain there have still been a lot of people enjoying themselves."

The event was organised by Wells Business Forum with help from the wider local community. It was in aid of Homes for Wells, a charity that helps to house local people.

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