Downpatrick festive cheer

Downpatrick festive cheer

29 November 2023

DOWNPATRICK is getting ready for Christmas like never before.

The countdown to the festive season begins this weekend with a bumper package of events for all the family to enjoy.

A charity Christmas ride, with the real Santa Claus at its head and dozens of other Santas on horseback, will be coming through the town on Saturday afternoon.

The switching-on of the Christmas lights will take place on Sunday evening at St Patrick’s Square where there will be a host of other attractions, including a Christmas market, Santa’s grotto and music.

Primary school children are being invited to take part in a competition which is offering the prize of a magical trip to Lapland.

And the Down Recorder is offering £100 in prize money for one lucky reader to spend in a Downpatrick shop.

Just weeks after the town centre was devastated by flooding, the message is clear – Downpatrick is open for business.

The charity ride was due to be held at its usual venue in Saintfield, but organiser Joan Cunningham decided to make the switch to Downpatrick for one year only after a last-minute appeal by local businessman Bartley Murphy.

She said: “Bartley rang me and asked if I would bring the charity ride to Downpatrick to give the people and the traders some Christmas cheer.

“Downpatrick was devastated by the floods and I hope this will give a boost to the town as it gets back on its feet.

“I would urge everyone who has given the event such great support in the past to come to Downpatrick.”

Riders will set off from Downpatrick racecourse at around 12.30pm and make their way to St Patrick’s Square where there will be music from Hugo Duncan, Boxcar Brian and Gerard Dornan.

Added Joan: “There will be lots of prizes up for grabs, including for the best dressed Santas, but most of all we want everyone to have a great time.”

On Sunday, the Downpatrick Community Collective is organising four hours of festive fun, culminating in the arrival of Santa and the official switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights at 6pm.

Businesses will be selling their goods inside a giant marquee at the rear of the Grove shopping centre which is hosting a festive market between 1pm and 6pm.

At St Patrick’s Square, the festive entertainment gets underway at 2pm. Radio personality George Jones will be on stage until 4pm and will be followed by the Abba Sensations band. 

Other activities taking place include Santa’s Grotto, mini roundabout rides, family games and street entertainers. A festive firework display will follow the lights switch-on.

Meanwhile, Downpatrick Town Committee is supporting a Christmas competition with the fantastic prize of a one-day trip to Lapland in December 2024 for one lucky family.

Entries are limited to primary school children who are asked to go into local shops and businesses and find something unusual.

They should be returned to Murphy’s Bar by 6pm on Sunday, December 10, when the winner will be announced.

One of the organisers is local businessman Morgan Morrison, who said: “It’s a great prize, but most of all we want people to come to Downpatrick and see for themselves that we are very much open for business.”