THE COUNTDOWN to Christmas is always special and in Stockton-on-Tees we want everyone to make the most of the festive season.
Not sure what’s happening? It’s all here! Stockton Sparkles is on its merry way to help you and your family experience the most wonderful time of the year!
Here is your ‘all you need to know’ guide to help you discover where to eat, drink, shop and play this Christmas in Stockton.
What’s in store for this year’s Sparkles?
Stockton-on-Tees’ Christmas festival features a packed four-week programme including the annual Christmas lights switch-on, a launch night full of entertainment, arts and craft workshops, street theatre, choirs, special Sparkles Market and continental markets as well as the much-loved Reindeer Parade.
What’s happening on launch night?
Gather near The Shambles on Stockton High Street on Thursday 29 November, between 5.30pm and 7pm to see Stockton Sparkles truly get underway.
Hosted by BBC Tees’ Scott Makin and Paul L Martin, the High Street will be alive with Christmas song and cheer.
As part of the festivities, nine-year-old Brooke Burke from Hartburn Primary School, as seen on BBC’s The Voice Kids, will be delighting the crowds with a stunning vocal performance before a unique mirror ball act lights up Stockton town centre.
The Christmas lights switch-on will happen at 6.30pm when the Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees, Councillor Eileen Johnson, will join Santa and guests on stage to press the button and get Stockton sparkling!
Keep your eyes peeled for your chance to join our ‘Christmas kazoo orchestra’ where you’ll be able to join in with a classic Christmas song. Each kazoo handed out will have a unique number and, if your number is called, you could find yourself joining the Mayor and Santa on stage to turn on our Christmas lights!
Will there be a reindeer parade?
Yes! At 2pm on Sunday 9 December - Santa, his elves and reindeer will be making their way on his sleigh through Stockton in a sparkling parade complete with a flurry of beautiful costumes.
Starting at Stockton Parish Church and ending outside of the town hall, where they’ll take a rest and enjoy some refreshments.
The Cairngorm Reindeer are trained to take part in Christmas appearances. The small herd have had the most specialised handling since they were five-month-old calves and work alongside experienced handlers who always put the animal’s welfare first.
Starting your Christmas shopping? Don’t miss Sparkles speciality markets!
From launch day on Thursday 29 November and running until Sunday 2 December, the Christmas market will transform the High Street into a vibrant festive village. Visit the wonderful Christmas log cabins for a range of handmade crafts, gifts and delicious treats. Traders include the Three Brothers Brewing Company, Sparkles Jewellery, The Spoilt Rotten Pet Company, Stateside Treat Emporium and many more.
Santa’s Postbox will also be up and running again for 2018 during the Christmas market. Hosted by Stockton Business Information District, visitors are invited to come along and write their Christmas lists and post them – each one will receive a reply from Santa!
But that’s not all. From Wednesday 5 December to Sunday 9 December, Stockton will host a continental market with a completely new range of traders selling a wide range of delicious food and fine goods from European traders.
Quirky street theatre will add even more sparkle this year and visitors to Stockton can expect to see singing Christmas crackers, gingerbread characters, stilt walkers, bouncing snowmen and much more!
Arts and craft workshops will be on offer on the weekend dates of Saturday 1, Sunday 2, Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 December in The Fountain Shopping Mall and local bands will provide live music in front of the Stockton Flyer over the first weekend of December.
Stockton’s traditional market will run as normal, with added festive fun, on Saturday 22 December. You can look forward to Elf on the Shelf characters handing out market trail cards and setting the challenge of finding the ten marked market stalls taking part to collect your stamp. Collect all ten for your chance to win market vouchers and goodie bags!
The Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees will be on hand to find a winner of the best dressed market stall competition while face painters, a tombola stall and free mince pies will all be waiting to be discovered on the High Street.
You’ll also have chance to support the Borough’s young people at a dedicated Youth Market held in the Castlegate Shopping Centre on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 November.
What do councillors think about Stockton Sparkles?
Councillor Norma Wilburn, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture, said: “Sparkles is a hugely popular part of our year-round events and festival programme and there’ll truly be something for everyone to enjoy this year.
“A few highlights I’m looking forward to include the fantastic Sparkles and continental markets, vibrant street theatre, thrilling lights switch-on and the heart-warming The Gift campaign – Stockton really will sparkle this Christmas.”
Where can I park and which car parks will be closed?
There are over a thousand parking spaces in Stockton plus the Castlegate and Wellington Square car parks.
During launch night the Shambles car park will be unavailable and it will also be out of action for the Reindeer Parade, where the Municipal Buildings car park will also be closed.
There is plentiful accessible parking in Stockton. For a full list, visit www.stockton.gov.uk/parking
What road closures will there be and will buses be affected?
The central area of Stockton High Street, between the bus turning loops, will be closed from 11am until midnight on Thursday 29 November. Bus services will be affected and temporary stops will be in operation during the closure.
There’ll be rolling road closures in Stockton town centre to ensure the safety of our furry friends during the Reindeer Parade for a short period of time.
Buses will remain in normal operation at all other times. Full information on bus services for Stockton town centre can be found here.
This all sounds great! Where can I find out more?
For full dates and times and to see everything Sparkles will have to offer, visit www.stockton.gov.uk/stocktonsparkles