As the cost of living crisis has seen communities lose their festive celebrations this year, the Fort William Festive Fund and wider community rallied to keep theirs.
Santa did come to town much to Fort William’s delight.
Some communities were forced to cut back on festive celebrations this Christmas due to rising costs across the UK.
This year, Highland Council cancelled Inverness’s Christmas light switch-on ceremony, with rising costs cited as a contributing factor.
However, Fort William Festive Fund rose to the challenge and were determined to deliver a Christmas light switch-on.
Previous festive light switch-ons were organised by Town Team, who withdrew from organising the event in 2019.
As a result, The Fort William Festive Fund came together in 2021 which still consists of five volunteers today.
The committee were able to pull on experience from previous years to make the event a success.
This year, there was a positive turn-out of families, locals and tourists alike.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
As Santa Claus was escorted through the high street on his sleigh, Santa Claws too made an appearance.
An enthusiastic, inflatable T-Rex in a festive hat joined the parade momentarily before escaping into the night.
Mrs Bubbles the balloon modeller amused the children patiently queuing outside Santa’s grotto in the West Highland Museum.
Meanwhile, their companion Mr Bubbles kindly entertained the curious adults on the high street.
The New Connections building also held fun activities for families.
A pianist provided music and songs to generate a festive atmosphere as games were played and children got their faces painted.
Raffle prizes also proved popular this year, with many buying tickets in the hopes of getting a £100 Morrisons voucher, a dinner voucher for the Alexandra Hotel or even a sheepskin rug.
The cost of living crisis may impact next year’s event
Although this years event was able to go ahead, the Fort William Festive Fund have shared that they faced many challenges to get there.
Committee member Karen Dean explained that the event may not take place next year depending on costs and available help.
“The current committee are stretching themselves too thinly,” she explains. “Everyone is either working, running their own business or volunteering on almost a full time level.”
According to the Fort William Festive Fund, the lights saw a price increase of 20% this year due to the cost of living crisis.
There was also a notable increase in the price of printing raffle tickets, as well as purchasing gifts for Santa to give to the children.
“This year in particular is proving harder to raise the funds,” says Karen. “Families and businesses are having to be really careful on keeping track of their spending.”
If you are interested in following the Fort William Festive Fund for updates or which to volunteer, you can find more information on their Facebook page.
Donations to support their work can be made on their Just Giving page here.