CHRISTMAS has finally arrived at a Bognor Regis shopping area.
Businesses in The Arcade in the town centre have staged their first seasonal celebration.
The event was the first time in its 117-year history that a special day had been held to showcase the shops and invite Father Christmas along.
Matt Ellison, owner of The Sweet Jar, said the occasion had been a success.
“It’s been good. It has certainly attracted people down here. A lot have come down to see what is going on.
“The Arcade is a beautiful building and a lot of the shopkeepers have been here a long time,” he said.
The staging of the Christmas-themed day was typical of the efforts Arun District Council had made since it bought the building a year ago.
“The council have done really well since taking over,” he said. “There were a couple of council officers here this morning, which is good to see on a Saturday.
“We were left out on a limb with the previous owners but the council is helping us, which is needed. It’s not an easy game at the moment.”
The build-up to the event began the previous Friday when attractive rows of white lights and garlands were switched on to blend in with the rest of the town centre’s decorations.
The centrepiece of the day was the arrival of Father Christmas to his grotto in one of the premises converted for the day.
Costumed characters added to the Dickensian flavour of the event. Free hot chestnuts and candy sticks were on offer to everyone – and a snow machine gave visitors of all ages plenty to smile about.
Among those who went along to The Arcade was Mike Nettleton, 59, of North Bersted. He said: “They have done a good job today, better than I thought.
“The lights look nice as well. They really help The Arcade to look good.
“I’ve lived in the area for 20 years but I’ve not been down here recently. It certainly looks better than it did a year or two ago.”
Two of the other visitors who revelled in the fake snow were The Regis School pupils, Kaylah Williams and Molly Buxton, both aged 15.
kaylah took the chance to use the artificial material for a unique set of shots for her GSCE photography course using Molly as her model in a series of dance poses as the ‘snow’ fell.
“We have got our mock exam on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Kaylah.
“The subject is arrangements and I thought I would get take photographs in the fake snow. It’s very seasonal and very different.
“No-one else will have photographs like these. I just love doing photography,” said Kaylah.