It is five years since Lanark’s winter programme was first branded by the town’s community development trust.
In that time, Winterfest has grown considerably and this year there are 45 entries in the bumper programme – a record number.
Thanks to sponsorship from Borders Biscuits, local bus advertising has been introduced this year with lamppost posters in Motherwell and Hamilton.
The aim is to promote Lanark, its businesses and events not only here in Clydesdale, but to a much wider audience too.
There are certainly plenty of events to cement the town’s credentials as a winter destination.
Winterfest will kick off in earnest this Saturday (November 16) when the popular Christmas market returns to the High Street, along with the annual light switch-on, organised by South Lanarkshire Council.
Melissa Reilly, the Trust’s development manager, said: “The market is always a popular event, with stallholders selling everything from food and drink to clothes and toys.
“It’s a chance for people to purchase some unique gifts for Christmas, both from the stalls and our local businesses, who also get into the spirit of the event.”
There will be entertainment throughout the day from local and professional entertainers, before Santa and his Elves travel down the High Street from 3.45pm ahead of the big light switch-on at 4.45pm, which is not to be missed!
The following Friday, November 22, will see a return of the late night shopping event.
The Lanimer Committee’s illuminated winter parade will take centre stage, as lorries and entries from Lanimer Day get a chance to take the spotlight again – with fairy lights adding to the occasion.
Melissa said: “This event started off quite small four years ago with only a couple of entries taking part.
“But it has grown every year since as many of the Lanimer entries see it as a chance to show off their hard work once again.
“Entries used to be dismantled straight after Lanimers but many are now kept in storage for the illuminated parade.
“Lanimer participants also get a second chance to wear their costumes again.
“It was quite spectacular last year, with a fire-eater leading the parade who will return this year.
“The Lanimer Committee has worked hard on the event and it’s been a big success.
“There’s nothing else like it in Scotland so we’ve invited a couple of TV stations – fingers crossed they’ll come along.”
Businesses will also get a chance to shine as the event is tied in with the ever-popular late night shopping.
“Local shops, pubs and restaurants all get involved,” said Melissa, “with many of them offering special deals and treats on the night.
“It was really popular last year and every venue we went into was packed.
“The aim is to encourage people to shop local for their Christmas presents and to prove there’s no need to go anywhere else – Lanark really does have it all.”
That sentiment is ably backed up by the last of three major events being staged.
The Festive Taste of Lanark will be held on Saturday, December 7, with the Tolbooth serving as its activity hub.
Melissa said: “A range of stalls selling food, drink and produce from in and around Lanark will be upstairs, while fundraising games and activities for local charities have been organised downstairs by Lanark Community Council.
“Visitors will also be able to enjoy samples and tasty treats from local eateries in and around the town centre.”
Leadhills Silver Pipe Band will perform outside the Tolbooth from noon to 2pm.
Crowds will then assemble at 2pm for the annual Santa Dash Horse Parade by the Scottish Equi Centre, which will proceed down the High Street.
Each of this year’s highlighted events will be filmed by Discover Lanark BID to create short films to promote Lanark’s festivities in the future.
Melissa added: “The programme has grown every year and visitors are now coming from all over, not just from Clydesdale.
“Many more community groups and local venues are also now participating, including New Lanark World Heritage Site, the Memorial Hall, Lanark Panto Club, Lanark Amateur Musical Society and local churches.
“Being included in the programme helps give them all a far wider audience.”
The full programme can be viewed at www.lanark.co.uk/winterfest-2019.
Festivals to celebrate in 2020
Lanark Community Development Trust is a charitable, non-profit body which carries out projects for the common good.
It is an independent, volunteer-led organisation which is part of a growing network of development trusts that now exist across Scotland.
In Lanark, it aspires to develop and deliver priority community projects which have a social, environmental and economic impact, seeking to add value to existing activities in partnership with other local groups and organisations.
Winterfest is part of the Trust’s Lanark Festivals project, which also includes FlowerFest at Castlebank Park, taking place from May 8 to 10, 2020, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
For more information about Lanark Community Development Trust’s projects, visit the website at www.lanarktrust.co.uk.