Santa, markets, an Instagrammable Tipi and a brand-new fire show: Here's all you need to know about this year's Stockton Sparkles
Feel the festive spirit this Christmas with the return of Stockton Sparkles winter festival.
The popular annual event returns to Stockton town centre from Thursday 24 November with plenty to do for residents and visitors alike.
From Stories with Santa, to Christmas Markets, the annual Lantern Parade and a brand-new spectacular fire performance, here's everything you need to know to plan your visit...
What's happening on launch night?
Hosted by BBC Tees' very own Gary Phillipson with entertainment from Santa himself, comedian Lauren Pattison and North East band PICNIC, Stockton High Street will be transformed into a winter wonderland on launch night, Thursday 24 November. Gather near the Stockton Flyer plinth from 5pm for an evening of entertainment on the stage before the lights switch on at 6.30pm, with Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees, Councillor Ross Patterson flicking the switch to get Stockton sparkling.
Cleveland Philharmonic Choir will lead community Christmas carols around the tree and there's street theatre too.
All the fun of the Victorian Fair
Ride the 50-foot Ferris wheel and carousel for free at the fantastic Victorian Christmas Fair which will be on the High Street from 10am on launch day Thursday 24 November through to Sunday 27 November.
From Friday to Sunday, between 11am and 1pm and 2pm and 4pm, there'll be little cabins alongside the fair offering free balloon twisting, tattoo art and glitter face-painting to get everyone sparkling.
Find the perfect gift at our Christmas Market
Stockton Sparkles wouldn't be complete without a Christmas Market and this year's four-day market runs from Thursday 1 December until Sunday 4 December. Pick up a range of delicious treats and festive gifts from local artists, makers and traders, all housed in 20 winter wonderland wooden cabins on Stockton High Street.
There'll also be hot food including pizza, Philly cheesesteaks and vegan dishes plus a range of tasty brownies, cookies and drinks - then on Friday 2 December visitors can enjoy a festive Sparkles-themed cocktail or mocktail from the cocktail van.
Those wishing to get their present requests to Father Christmas in time will also be able to post a letter in Santa's post-box at the market and you can even snap a selfie at the new giant Gingerbread House, which will be alongside the towering Christmas tree (in the fountain area) from Thursday 1 to Sunday 4 December.
What's this about the new fire show?
This year's Stockton Sparkles will debut La Flamo Fire Show, a high energy performance with a dazzling display of fire tricks set to an atmospheric soundtrack. Watch the show at 5.40pm on Friday 2 December and expect plenty of glittering fire dancing, pyrotechnics, hula hoops, skipping ropes, and fire breathing - plus a whole host of other spectacular performances.
The Christmas Market, along with food and drink, will all be available throughout the show, making it the perfect evening of entertainment.
Storytime and winter workshops at the Tipi
Another new addition to Stockton Sparkles, the festive Tipi offers a highly Instagrammable spot in which to sit and enjoy your food and drink.
It'll also play host to a packed programme of free activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Settle in for story time with Santa on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 December or try your hand at the wreath-making workshops on Saturday 3 December. Each story time session will have a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter present.
These activity workshops are free but ticketed. Tickets will be available from Monday 21 November at 9.30am but there'll also be tickets available on the day, 30 minutes before each session at the Enjoy Stockton-on-Tees shop on Stockton High Street.
To reserve your early bird ticket pop into the Enjoy Stockton-on-Tees shop on Stockton High Street, call on 01642 528130 or visit visit the Stockton Sparkles page of the Enjoy Tees Valley website.
And there's even more in store from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday 4 December when people can take part in free drop-in craft sessions with festive card making from Dawn Brown and bauble-making with Work of Heart. No tickets necessary for these ones.
When is the Lantern Parade?
The Illuminated Lantern Parade returns at 4pm on Sunday 4 December. Come along and watch Santa and his elves lead the 350-strong parade down Stockton High Street with local schoolchildren and community groups. This year's theme of 'A Folkloric Christmas' will see a dazzling display of colour and light featuring costumes by artist Morwenna Catt alongside street theatre, Christmas music and a live band performance.
Will there be reindeer at the parade?
Not this year. The much-loved reindeer won't be taking part in this year's parade, but Santa's furry friends can be seen at Preston Park Museum from Saturday 26 November to Wednesday 22 December (except Mondays when the Museum will be closed). Visitors will be able to purchase reindeer food for a small charge of £1.
Find a last-minute gift at the Christmas Eve Traditional Market
Shop at the Christmas Eve market on Stockton High Street from 9am until 2.30pm on Saturday 24 December.
What do councillors think about Stockton Sparkles?
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Culture, said: "Stockton Sparkles is one of our most popular events packed full of fantastic entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.
"As well as the annual Christmas lights switch-on, this year's bumper event features some new additions including the unmissable La Flamo fire show and activities Tipi with a range of festive themed workshops throughout the festival.
"There's so much on offer as the countdown to Christmas gets under way so make sure you wrap up warm and join us from launch night on Thursday, 24 November."
Where can I park and which car parks will be closed?
There are over a thousand parking spaces in Stockton plus Wellington Square car park. Visit the car parking page of the Council's website for a full list and a downloadable map.
During launch night the High Street Car Park North (outside the Sun Inn) will be unavailable and it will also be out of action on Friday 2 December and Sunday 4 December.
The High Street Car Park South (outside the Shambles) will be closed on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December for the Lantern Parade.
What road closures will there be and will buses be affected?
Stockton High Street will be closed to vehicles for the duration of launch night, Thursday 24 November. The High Street will also be closed on Friday 2 December and Sunday 4 December (but open on Saturday 3 December).
This will affect bus stops so visit the Connect Tees Valley website to help you find the best options for your journey.
This all sounds great! Where can I find out more?
For full details of everything Sparkles has to offer, plus information on parking, transport visit the Stockton Sparkles page of the Enjoy Tees Valley website.
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