Rodeo stars on day of SY Christmas magic

Fri 8 December 2023
Rodeo stars on day of SY Christmas magic

Rodeo the donkey received the honour of turning on Stornoway's Christmas lights on Tuesday evening (November 28), watched by hundreds from the town who welcomed the start of the festive season. 
A craft market, charity market, fun fair, Santa's grotto, live music, parade, food and drink vans, plus Rodeo's big turn all combined to make the 2023 switch on a memorable evening.

Organised by the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery (WILL), the entire afternoon had seen events being held in the town centre prior to the 6.45pm switch on in Perceval Square.

Charity

Charity was at the heart of many of the festivities. In the library, the charity market started at midday and allowed several good causes to host stands to raise awareness and funds.

Claire Morris of Autism Eilean Siar was attending her first charity market.

"It is my first time in here. It is about getting the word out, allowing people to know we are here.

"The Western Isles is a charitable place. People put a lot towards charity: we have always found people are generous. And at Christmas, if there is something that has been handmade, with a bit of love, and it can help charity, people think that is great."

Speaking at the Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK) table, Malvene Macrae and Becky Moores said islanders had been very supportive since the charity started in 2020.

"Our past two years I have been overwhelmed by the support of the islanders, which wouldn't have happened a few years ago. There are some people who donate a little each month, some a bit more. It is encouraging."

At the RNLI table, Kathleen MacLeod and Donna MacKinnon were selling a variety of lifeboat themed goods, including bears in full RNLI kit. They said events such as this, and the Christmas shop being run at the lifeboat station, were vital to a service that is completely funded by donations.

Local goods

The craft market in the town hall, which also started at midday, also aided good causes as money raised from table fees and the raffle will go to charity.

It also served as a way for Stornoway's residents to see and enjoy the talent in the area.

Crafts, sweets, toys, photography and jewellery were all on display, much of it made by local hands.

For Hugh Barron of Wild Hebrides Snack Company, whose flavoured popcorn was doing a fine trade, the market was a great platform for anyone starting into the world of small homemade wares.

"I think it's very good for a new company. It gets your name out there," he said.

"The talent of some people is unbelievable. When you see what goes on in such a small island, it is amazing."

Yet it was not only Lewis businesses that were taking advantage of the Stornoway party. Having travelled from Uist for the event, Cathy Wostenholm of Sweet Boutique said it was great to be back.

"We came last year and it was spectacular, so when we were asked back we said yes. It is nice to see new sellers, and some people we saw last year. And it is nice to see what the different sellers are doing."

Answering questions, and ensuring the music was just right, a member of the WILL craft market organising team said she was pleased with how the market had done.

"Considering we are a six person team we have done phenomenally well. Thank you to everybody, and a team is only as good as the community. The community makes this."

Rodeo's time to shine

As darkness settled, focus moved to Perceval Square. The adjacent funfair rides quietened in preparation of the main event. 

With crowds gathered beneath the intermittent rain, the light switch on began with a police escort leading in a vibrant parade of brightly lit tractors, floats, tricycles, and motorbikes, producing a visual and audible spectacle.

Next came the Lewis and Harris Pipe Band, marching in formation before coming to a halt in front of the awaiting tree to play Scotland the Brave.

Then, adorned in lights, Rodeo the donkey arrived, alongside his human handler Carol. Already well-known in the town, the pair had recently finished their walk from France to Upper Bayble in Point, Rodeo's new home, providing celebrity status. With the little donkey taking pride of place, the countdown to the lights began.

Then, to a cheer, the giant tree in the square flashed into life.

Reaction to the lights was overwhelmingly positive.

Amber Barros, aged 4, said: "It was really really good. My favourite part was the parade and Santa."

Agreeing with that assessment was the Scaramuccia family's children.

"It was cool that the donkey turned them on," one girl said.

Another added: "It was really colourful."

A third added: "I loved the tractors and the pipe band. It was really good fun."

Live music was part of the night's entertainment at the lights event.
Alec Murray of MacAulay College, which had previously helped turn on the Stornoway lights, said he really enjoyed it.

As the crowds began to empty, many heading to the live music and food stalls, organiser Janet Paterson of the Western Isles lottery was delighted with how the event had worked.

"Fantastic! The parade, all the tractors...look at the sleigh! We think it was the highest turnout for a long time.

"We are over the moon." 

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Funds raised this year

£91,691.60

80.15% Complete

3206 tickets of our 4000 ticket goal