Dancing on Ice star Zoe Salmon skated into Ballyhackamore last night to perform the village’s first ever Christmas lights ceremony.
Hundreds of people turned out for the big switch on last night (Dec 1) creating a fabulous community spirit. The new lights along the Upper Newtownards Road welcomed the huge crowd to the event organised by the Ballyhackamore Business Association.
The public were treated to a bounty of free goodies from local shops – including cupcakes, shortbread, cakes, warming punch and endless cups of tea and coffee – plus carols from two school choirs (Strandtown and St Joseph’s), a visit from Santa and the official tree lighting performed by TV presenter Zoe Salmon.
“It’s brilliant to see such a huge turn-out and so much support from local people. Thousands of people drive up the Newtownards Road every day and I think sometimes they forget about the great range of local shops here. This has been a great opportunity for us to say thank you to all the people of the area and to invite them in to see what we offer,” said William Corrie of Corrie’s Farm Butchers.
Alliance MP Naomi Long was one of many familiar faces in the crowd and she commented that the new lights really gave the area a lift. “It’s great to see these lights up and it should encourage people to stop and use their local shops,” she said.
Presenter Zoe Salmon welcomed the audience and said she was delighted to be part of the first Ballyhackamore Christmas switch on. “It’s so heartwarming to see so much support and it’s lovely for me to be involved with the first ceremony. I don’t think you can beat the friendliness and special atmosphere that you can only get in local shops,” she added.
Brenda Shankey, Chairman of Ballyhackamore Business Association, said: “A big thank you to all the traders who have made this happen this year in Ballyhackamore and for Belfast City Council supporting us at such lengths during this festive retail season.
“Small Independent retailers are important for the growth of the economy. We hope to encourage local people to support local businesses which will create employment and facilitate small businesses to keep them alive during these difficult times,” she added.
Ballyhackamore Business Association will also be distributing a shopper voucher booklet to 20,000 homes in the area with Christmas offers from all traders with the focus being `Shop Local this Christmas!` A number of businesses in the area have won awards this year. Knock Travel scooped the `Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year 2011` title and Horatio Todds has picked up several awards.