The countdown to a magical Christmas in Mid Ulster gets officially underway this year with the Switch On of Cookstown’s Christmas lights at 6.30pm on Thursday 24th November.
With street stalls, free face painting and balloon modelling as well as a host of Christmas and Cartoon characters, including the Paw Patrol, there will be loads to keep the kids amused as they wait for Santa to arrive.
This year we welcome The Whistlin’ Donkeys to liven up the evening for us, ahead of their spring performance in the Burnavon, with a very special Christmas performance just for Cookstown! Hailing from County Tyrone, The Whistlin’ Donkeys are described as Ireland’s favourite Irish traditional folk/rock band. They have recently been busy headlining the Saint Patrick Days celebrations in Times Square New York, Memorial Day events in East Durham and the Catskills New York and Boston Irish Festival. The band has also shared the stage with icons such as The Beach Boys, Smokie, Hot Chocolate, Kian Egan and Shane Filan.
Other entertainment comes from some of the cast of this year’s panto ‘Willy Wonka: The Pantomime’ which will be in the Burnavon from 6th – 28th January.
Hot on the heels of the evenings’ entertainment will be the arrival of Santa himself on board his special sleigh! Santa will join the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Cllr Trevor Wilson on stage just after 7.30pm and together they will press the magic red button to light up the streets of Cookstown.
Next up, a new ‘magical kingdom’ is to form the centrepiece of Dungannon’s Christmas celebrations for 2016.
Ranfurly House, at the heart of the town centre, is to be the gateway to a festive kingdom for the weekend of 25th to 27th November, becoming home to Santa’s elves and a host of Christmas workshops and film screenings, while the viewing tower on the Hill of the O’Neill is to be transformed into Santa’s grotto.
The dome on the hill is to become a space dedicated to children - ‘Little World’ – and will be filled with traditional fun fair rides and activities, street performers, face painters, and alongside more than 30 stalls filled with crafts, food and Christmas gift ideas will form a Christmas Fair in a snug, heated marquee.
Throughout the weekend, Christmas arts and crafts activities and workshops will take place in the art studio in Ranfurly House, with story-telling, Christmas sing-alongs and film screenings of Frozen and the Polar Express also on offer.
The weekend gets underway on Friday 25 November with a light performance, live music and children’s entertainment, including the naughty, but lively pirates Cook and Line from Cbeebies’ ‘Swashbuckle’ TV show, before Santa arrives in Market Square on a reindeer-drawn sleigh, ready to switch on the Christmas tree lights.
In Magherafelt, a fantastic array of 25 artisan food and craft stalls selling local high quality products, will be the centrepiece of the 2016 Magherafelt Christmas Market and Christmas Lights-switch, taking place from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th December, and the first event to be held in the newly refurbished town centre.
Enjoy browsing and sampling the locally produced food and drink, or take time to unwind in the lounge, where you can experience a craft beer, hot mulled wine or just sit and relax. There will be lots of hints and tips for Christmas feasts and local bands and school children will perform in the marquee over the weekend.
You can vote for your favourite taste too, as local butchers will compete for the crown of “Magherafelt’s Best Banger” or why not enter the Christmas Jumper Competition taking place on Sunday 4 December?
All wrapped up in this smorgasbord of treats will be Magherafelt’s Christmas Lights Switch-on on Saturday 3rd December at 7pm, with Chair of Mid Ulster District Council and Santa of course, finishing the evening of festive fun with a spectacular fireworks display.
Don’t miss this year’s Coalisland Christmas Lights Switch-On, which takes place on Sunday 4th December at the Cornmill Centre.
To help build up to the big switch on, supported by Mid Ulster District Council, DJ Marty Lo and the stars of the CRAIC pantomime ‘Beauty and the Beast’ will start the celebrations at 5pm. To add to the atmosphere, you’ll be treated to an evening of festive fun, including street entertainment, giveaways, music from local talent, a music and dance performance by the very talented cast of CRAIC and other surprises.
While Santa will be busy right across Mid Ulster over the coming weeks, he’ll be in attendance to make sure the lights are on by 6.30pm.
For further information on the Christmas Lights Switch On in Coalisland, contact the CRAIC theatre on 028 8774 1100 or through their Facebook page.
Finally, Christmas will be launched in spectacular style in Maghera this year with the Christmas Festival taking place on Saturday 10 December from 12-7pm.
There will be plenty of family entertainment throughout the day including a festive, fun afternoon treasure hunt around the town centre, craft workshops, face painting, balloon modelling and prize draws- there will even be a Polar Bear Dunk!
The hub of the festival will be on the Coleraine Road where the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council and Santa will turn on the lights at 5pm at the newly relocated Christmas tree.
At 6pm the Lantern Walk will take place in the Walled Garden followed by Story Telling and Hot Chocolate in the Lurach Centre. Don’t forget that you can be prepared with a lantern you made earlier by signing up to the Lantern Making workshop at the Lurach Centre, Maghera on Saturday 26th November (at 2pm and 3.30pm).
To find out about Christmas events across Mid Ulster, including light switch on events in Cookstown, Dungannon, Magherafelt and Maghera, visit www.midulstercouncil.org/christmas.