Thousands line the streets of Stowmarket and Sudbury for festive celebrations

St Peter and St Mary's Church, Stowmarket, celebrates the opening of its Christmas tree festival. Pi

St Peter and St Mary's Church, Stowmarket, celebrates the opening of its Christmas tree festival. Pictured: Harry and Elena Brown.

The festive season officially arrived in Stowmarket tonight as the town celebrated the launch of its annual Christmas tree festival and lights switch-on.

More than 4,000 turned out to mark the event in the town centre, which makes it a contender for the most well attended to date.

Clare, Countess of Euston, the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, officially opened the festival at St Peter and St Mary’s Church at 6pm. With at least 400 Christmas trees involved, the event expanded this year to two extra venues in the town – The Mix and the Museum of East Anglian Life.

Judy Eden, an organiser of the festival, said the church believed it was the biggest Christmas tree festival in the region and the only one to have more than one venue.

She added: “I just want to say a big thank-you to all the decorators who have put such wonderful decorations on the trees and people who have donated trees and decorations.” The festival runs until January 2.

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The Christmas lights were switched on at 7.30pm by competition winner Francesca Callan, who was treated like a celebrity for the day.

Francesca was picked up from her home in a limousine and treated to afternoon tea with the Mayor of Stowmarket Barry Salmon before the pair were dropped off at the Market Place for the switch-on.

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It also happened to be Francesca’s 26th birthday and residents and guests all joined together to sing her Happy Birthday.

David Marsh, events and theatre manager at Stowmarket Town Council, said it had gone “fantastically well” and was “the best one yet.”

Christmas also came to Sudbury tonight as thousands of people lined the streets to watch the town’s light being switched on in Old Market Place. There was plenty of festive entertainment in the shape of a synthetic skating rink, inflatable bouncy Christmas pudding, circus workshops, majorettes and more. The honour of switching on the lights was given to Sudbury Mayor, Jack Owen, and the winner of the annual Christmas card competition, 11-year-old Louie Arnold.

Mr Owen said: “The atmosphere was outstanding, friendly, cordial, with everybody getting together and enjoying themselves. There were lots of families, young people, older people – events like this bring the town to life and demonstrate what Sudbury is all about.”

He gave a special thanks to his secretary, Teresa Elford, for organising the event.

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