Festive flick to light up Ashburton

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CAPTION: Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown says lighting up the Christmas tree signals the start of the festive season and the Light up the Night is a valued community event. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK
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Ashburton’s town centre will soon be aglow with the twinkle of Christmas lights, as a flick of the switch officially kicks off the festive season.

The Ashburton District Council’s Light Up the Night event, which involves the switching on of the lights on the East Street Christmas tree, will take place on Saturday.

The community event has a $30,000 budget, a cost Mayor Neil Brown thought was well worth it.

“It’s a free community event and there will be thousands of people here to enjoy it.

“The council gets criticised at times for not doing enough free events, and $30,000 in the scheme of things for the social benefit it achieves … it will bring some vibrancy to the town.”

The street will be closed off, with food trucks, activities and entertainment to bring the spirit of Christmas, he said.

Even those feeling a bit Grinchy are welcome to come along, he said.

Following discussions with the CBD retailers last year, the event has moved to a Saturday night.

Council compliance and development group manager Jane Donaldson said Saturday will be more appealing to families and less disruptive for local retailers.

“We’re hoping for a nice clear day, but light rain or drizzle won’t stop the event from going ahead.”

The road closure – of East Street between Havelock Street and Tancred Street, from 3pm until 10.30pm – was approved last week following one objection.

The Christmas tree has been assembled this week and will be lit up at 9.15pm.

Ashburton’s town centre Christmas tree went up on East Street this week with a little help from EA Networks crew.

The event kicks off at 6pm. Local singers and dancers will provide the entertainment at a stage by the colossal Christmas tree.

The Ashburton Silver Band, Ashburton MSA men’s choir, Ashburton’s Samoan Christian Congregational Church choir will sing Christmas songs and carols, while the local Life Dance Academy will also perform.

Eco Educate will be onsite with a waste station to encourage people to recycle, and have suggested people can bring their own clean containers to hold food.

It could be the last time the event is held on East Street, with an option to relocate back to Baring Square East next year.

The square is undergoing a refurbishment that will have it act as a civic plaza area in front of Te Whare Whakatere, Ashburton’s new library and civic centre.

“No decisions have been made around next year’s Christmas events at this stage, but returning to Baring Square East is an option that we will consider,” Donaldson said.

The Light up the Night Christmas festival also includes a family outdoor movie night, with the movie yet to be announced, at the Ashburton Domain on December 9.

The night is free but movie-goers will be asked to bring a canned food item for the Salvation Army’s community foodbank.

There is also the Ashburton Christmas Parade, which is not a council-run event, on Walnut Avenue on December 2.

■ Public interest journalism funded by NZ on Air.