HUNDREDS of people shrugged off the rain to watch the Christmas lights sparkle above Bognor Regis again.
Some 250 spectators gathered at the junction of the High Street and London Road precinct for the annual switch-on.
The occasion consisted of the colourful displays being turned on elsewhere after the bad weather had caused the planned ceremony to be cancelled.
The stars of Cinderella at the Regis Centre were unable to attend because their costumes would have been ruined by the wet conditions.
But the lack of an official countdown failed to deter onlookers from gathering in the light rain to cheer as the coloured lighting burst into life just after the 5.30pm scheduled time.
The lights are set to continue twinkling well into the next decade. Bognor Regis Town Council has agreed to fund new displays for the three years from 2019.
They will spend £31,500 next year on the lighting with a new contractor, The Festive Lighting Company, after the current deal ends.
At a meeting, councillors were told by their deputy clerk, Sarah Norman: “The current contractor, who has historically supplied the lights at a significantly low cost, chose not to tender for the contract this time.
“This means that the required budget for the Christmas displays has noticeable increased.”
The costs include the expense of the new displays and the installation of the infrastructure to support them.
It also makes allowances for additional works that may be required for call-outs as a result of bad weather.
“The costs for the annual contract at the current time are £15,000 for provision, maintenance and installation, which are substantially lower than those quoted above,” said Mrs Norman.
The budgets for the following two years of the displays will be decided by councillors during 2019 and 2020.
The displays will continue to be installed along the London Road precinct, High Street, York Road and the Station Road/London Road junction.
Lighting is also installed in Aldwick Road, Little High Street, Norfolk Street, Queensway and on the town hall balcony as well as two 25ft Christmas trees outside the railway station and the William Hardwicke pub.
Among those at last Saturday’s switch-on was Bognor Regis resident Jon Robbins, 29, with his wife, Becky, 28, and their children, Jude, four, and Caleb, two.
He said: “It makes everyone feel a little bit more Christmassy to see the lights.
“This is the first time we have come down to the switch-on. We wanted to get in the Christmas spirit.
“I’m pleased the town council has agreed to pay for the lights for another three years. We don’t want to do what Chichester did a few years ago and not have any.”
The seven blue and gold giant snowflake displays and bright white icicles brightened up a dull day when they came on.
Poor weather saw outdoor entertainment switched to the railway station concourse.
Santa’s grotto was still a sell-out with all its 250 slots eagerly snapped up as parents and their children patiently waited for their time with the special visitor.
The winter fairy contact juggler, Malcolm the Magician and LED glow performers delighted them in the dry.
Kirsten Fitzpatrick, the town council’s events officer, said: “I made the decision to move the entertainment based on the weather forecast on Friday, which showed a 97 per cent chance of heavy rain. The rain was not as bad as expected but I can only go on the forecast.
“I wanted to make the decision early because I thought it was preferable that people knew what has happening.
“The lantern parade had to be cancelled because the horse-drawn carriage is completely open and the panto performers and their costumes would have been soaked.
“A big thank you to Southern Rail. They bent over backwards to help me.
“Without them, the grotto and entertainers would not have happened. There is no other comparable undercover place in the town we could have used.”