Stockton Sparkles is on its way: Here's what you need to know
The countdown to Christmas has started in Stockton-on-Tees.
Stockton Sparkles, the Borough's popular Christmas festival, is almost here and will once again offer residents and visitors three weeks of exciting events, entertainment and festive cheer.
Here's your 'all you need to know' guide to help you discover what to see, do and enjoy this Christmas in Stockton.
What's in store at Sparkles 2019?
This year's highlights include the annual Christmas lights switch-on, a launch night full of entertainment, Victorian Christmas Fair, Sparkles Christmas Market, a packed programme of fun in the Festive Spiegeltent, the much-loved Reindeer Parade, 'The Gift', Sparkles Sing-a-long plus street theatre and choirs.
What's happening on launch night?
Gather on Stockton High Street as Stockton Sparkles officially gets underway on Thursday 28 November between 5.30pm and 7pm with the Christmas lights switch on.
Hosted by BBC Tees' Scott Makin and Paul L Martin, the High Street will be alive with Christmas song and cheer set against the backdrop of the twinkling Victorian Christmas Fair.
The switch on will take place at 6.30pm when the Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees, Councillor Lynn Hall, will join Santa and guests on stage to make Stockton sparkle!
The feel-good vibe will continue with some festive carols around the Christmas Tree led by The Funk Collective and local community choirs.
The Victorian Christmas Fair will remain in the High Street up to and including Sunday 1 December. The free rides are suitable for all ages and include a carousel, 50-foot Ferris Wheel and 'chair-o-planes' ride.
Reuben Kench, the Council's Director of Culture, Events and Leisure, said: "This year's Stockton Sparkles programme offers something a little different with the Victorian Christmas Fair offering free family fun in the run up to the switch on and throughout the whole first weekend of Sparkles.
"But don't worry the ever-popular Christmas Market will return to the High Street for the second weekend of festival - giving shoppers and visitors a perfect opportunity to make the most of the stalls on offer while also exploring the Festive Spiegeltent and Reindeer Parade on the Sunday too!"
What else is happening throughout December?
Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 December
Stockton Sparkles Christmas Market
This year the Christmas Market will be taking place from Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 December.
Visit the wonderful Christmas log cabins for a range of handmade crafts, gifts and delicious treats - perfect for picking up Christmas gifts and treats. Traders include the Three Brothers Brewing Company, The Spoilt Rotten Pet Company, Black Heart Soap Emporium, The Gingerbread Mam and many more.
Those wishing to get their present requests to Father Christmas in time will also be able to post a letter in Santa's post-box at the market.
You'll also have chance to support the Borough's young people at a dedicated Youth Market held as part of the market on Thursday 5 and Friday 6 December.
NEW! Festive Speigeltent (book early to avoid disappointment)
Originally created in Belgium in the twentieth century, Spiegeltents are impressive, bohemian pop-up spaces which were used for travelling dance halls and bars.
From Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 December it will offer a full four-day programme of free and paid for festive workshops and yuletide performances.
Ever fancied making your own wreath or decorations? Adults can try their hands at making a wooden or paper Christmas wreath, snowmen, glass decorations and much more. Children can also aim for the stars with craft workshops to make astronauts' jet packs, rockets, star decorations and stellar inspired wands.
Check online for more details and information about tickets.
The tent will also be home to a much anticipated performance from Cattle & Cane (sold out).
The ever-popular event will return on Sunday 8 December at 2pm. Come and see Santa, his elves and reindeer as they make their way on his sleigh through Stockton town centre in a sparkling parade complete with a flurry of beautiful costumes.
The 'One Small Step' themed parade will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the
moon landing with hundreds of people from local schools and community groups parading through the town centre.
Following the parade, visitors can visit the Sparkles Market and Spiegeltent and there'll be an opportunity to visit the reindeer and Santa outside the Town Hall.
Saturday 14 December
On Saturday 14 December from 11am to 2pm budding vocalist super stars will get a chance to shine by performing with a live band in this community feel-good event.
Book a slot to sing-along to iconic Christmas classics in this special Christmas Bandeoke - like karaoke but with a live band! Fronted by Mike McGrother, the finale will feature community choirs and audience participation. Watch out for more details on social media.
This is the third year Stockton Sparkles will host The Gift, a touching community initiative to help make Christmas a little brighter for those less fortunate.
It gives people the chance to donate gifts from toiletry sets to hats, scarves and gloves or give their time to help people in need.
On Saturday 14 December from 10.30am to 3.30pm there'll be plenty of activities and crafts for volunteers to get involved in, such as gift wrapping, making hampers, writing Christmas cards and creating decorations. There will also be a range of festive entertainment and Christmas carols to enjoy.
Any donations can be dropped-off at the Rediscover Stockton Shop (134b High Street) from Thursday 28 November or brought along on the day to Unit 24, Wellington Square.
On Saturday 14 December shoppers in the town centre will be able to experience the town's famous traditional market looking its most festive. Throughout the day the Mayor of Stockton, Councillor Lynn Hall will be judging the best dressed stall competition.
Where can I park?
There are more than 2000 parking spaces in Stockton including the Castlegate and Wellington Square car parks.
The High Street car park in Stockton will be closed from 6pm on Tuesday 26 November until 8am on Friday 29 November.
During the Reindeer Parade on Sunday 8 December, the Shambles car park will be closed.