Shopkeepers and café owners reported brisk trade as an “unbelievable” number of people crammed onto Commercial Street in Lerwick for Shetland’s first Winter Festival.
The event brightened the fading winter afternoon on Saturday with a procession by the Jarl’s Squad, carols played by Lerwick Brass Band and the switching on of the town centre’s Christmas lights.
Santa was there too, walking in front of the vintage car provided for him, ringing his bell and having his helpers give out sweeties.
Shopkeepers reported the street as being packed, with no parking available anywhere nearer than King Harald Street.
Harry Jamieson of Harry’s Department Store is chairman of Living Lerwick Ltd, which organised the event. He said: “It was really first class, the most folk I’ve ever seen on the street, more than Up-Helly-A’, it was unbelievable. Peerie Foxes [nursery] switched on the lights, they went on section by section, it was a really good atmosphere. The idea was to create a nice atmosphere for people to come and shop.”
He was: “chuffed” with the “brilliant” first festival, which Living Lerwick co-ordinator Christena Irvine said would be built on year by year.
Alister Smith and Neil Anderson of R. W. Bayes jokingly festooned their Christmas tree with laminated cut-out images of Harry’s face. Mr Smith said: “It was fun, and Harry gave us the thumbs-up. I’m looking forward to the roasted chestnuts.”
Saturday’s procession wended its way from the street’s south end to the Fort area, where the crowds turned round. Many decided it was time for a bar of chocolate or a sweetie at Universal Stores. “The Saturday girls got a shock,” said the staff.
But it was the cafes that probably benefited most.
Folk took the chance to do some Christmas shopping too. Westside Pine was busy and proprietor Janet Davidge said: “It was good to see so many people and hear them say what a great atmosphere it was on the street.”
Jewellers J.G. Rae was bustling, and the shop’s Heather Fisher deemed Saturday’s event a great success. “There’s no doubt about it,” she said. “I never got to the front door to see the parade, but certainly there were a lot of new faces in the shop and the atmosphere was brilliant. The weather was perfect, everywhere else was flooded but I think Shetland was the only place where the sun came out.”