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Aviemore schoolgirl to turn on village Christmas lights following delays to her winning design

Tara Mackie, 11, with her winning penguin design

A series of festive activities have been planned for a Highlands schoolgirl after it was announced her Christmas light design would not be manufactured this winter.

Aviemore Primary School pupil Tara Mackie’s penguin light design was announced as the winner of a village competition back in August.

However, manufacturing delays due to the pandemic and Brexit mean it will not be ready to be placed on display in time for Christmas.

‘Create some great memories’

Competition organisers, Aviemore Community Enterprise (ACE), are still trying to make this winter as special as possible for Tara.

The 11-year-old will be turning on the Christmas lights in the village on November 27 and joining Santa for a ride on his sleigh before he sets off to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

She has also been given a day pass to Landmark, the adventure park, to enjoy with her family – but is waiting for better weather to arrive before her visit.

Tara’s mum, Andrea Wilson, said her daughter was really happy when she won and proud of her design, especially since drawing is something she loves to do.

The votes have been counted, and the winning design in this year's Children's Winter Light competition is….🌟 No 3 '…

Posted by Aviemore Community Enterprise Company Ltd on Friday, 6 August 2021

When she heard the design will not be ready for Christmas, Tara was “quite upset” as she had been looking forward to seeing her design come to life.

It will now be put up for everyone in the village to enjoy next year, displayed side by side with the 2022 winner.

Enjoyed by the whole village

The Winter Light Design competition was launched last year by ACE in conjunction with Aviemore Primary School.

ACE took over management of Aviemore’s winter lights when Highland Council withdrew their support in 2019.

As most of the lights are now more than 15-years-old, a lot of repair work was required. A complete renewal and expansion of the village’s Christmas lights is part of a bigger long-term project.

ACE chairwoman Judith Bell added: “All of us are very disappointed for Tara, it’s unfortunate that things outside of our control have caused this delay.

“We have hopefully put together a package that will create some great memories for her this year and then we can all look forward to seeing her design in lights next winter.”

Hamish hanging around

The designs by primary six pupils are first judged by the rest of the school before the four most popular entries go out to the community.

This year, 11-year-old Tara’s design received 46% of the votes to be displayed in a specially reserved spot at the Village Green.

Emma MacCallum, headteacher at Aviemore Primary School, said: “We were very disappointed to hear that the winning Christmas light design would not be available this year.

“Our children enjoy taking part in the competition and it is very exciting for the winner to see their design come to life.”

Hamish Ball’s winning Christmas light design, pictured in December 2020, will stay on display for another year. Picture by Sandy McCook/DCT Media.

Due to the manufacturing delays, last year’s winning design – Hamish the polar bear – will remain on display for another year.

The light was designed by Hamish Ball, who named the light after himself and the first polar bear born in the UK.

The current primary six pupils in Aviemore have also got a head start on their designs for this year’s competition to try and avoid any more manufacturing delays.

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