More than 5,000 people gathered in Wellingborough town centre on Saturday to mark the official start of Christmas.

The town’s lights were switched on in the culmination of an action-packed day of activities in Market Street, including tribute acts and a professional sportsman.

Santa paid a visit along with his reindeer as Wellingborough welcomed the beginning of the festive season, while juggling, spinning and balancing tricks and a Snow Globe also entertained the crowds.

Northampton Saints rugby star Christian Day took to the stage thanks to sponsors of the event Niamh’s Next Step, a Wellingborough-based children’s cancer charity. The Rugby Union player is celebrating his testimonial year and has nominated Niamh’s Next Step as his charity to support.

The event was put on by Wellingborough Business Improvement District (BID), which organises events and promotions through its Discover Wellingborough campaign.

BID manager John Cable said: “We always put on a good show in Wellingborough for the annual Christmas lights switch on and this year was one of the best yet.

“The event not only provides a chance for the town to kick-start the festive season, but is also an opportunity for us to celebrate our great town centre, with its wide selection of independent retailers, historic buildings and free parking.”

The cast of The Castle Theatre’s Christmas show, The Wizard of Oz, watched the parade as Santa arrived on his sleigh.

Connect FM duo Liz and Mark began the countdown on a specially erected stage. All Hallows Church and Northamptonshire School of Music provided music alongside Whitney Houston and Tina Turner tribute acts as well as performers from the area. The cast of the Wizard of Oz also provided family fun to enhance the merry mood.

The sky was lit up by a fireworks display before the Christmas lights were switched-on by the town’s Mayor, Councillor Paul Bell, and four-year-old Bonnie Collis, from Wellingborough, who won a Connect FM competition.

Bonnie’s dad Jimmy said: “She absolutely loved it, she had a great time, I didn’t think she was going to speak but she was full of confidence.”

There were also two markets with a Victorian Market located at The Hind Hotel and the Christmas Market on the Market Square.