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Gala returns to light up night to the delight of spectators along seafront

Six-year-old Arlan West’s winning entry in the Bognor Regis illuminations gala entry was out of this world.

 

The Selsey boy’s NASA Discovery space shuttle won the first Erik Jack Memorial Trophy for its lit-up electric bike.

 

Arlan said: “It was fun riding my space ship and it was good. I waved to people as I went past and steered it with one hand.”

 

His mum, Natalie Butterworth, said: “Arlan is over the moon with his win. I didn’t tell him there were prizes for the winning entries.

 

“Arlan is going through an autism diagnosis at the moment but he loves space and looking at the moon and the stars. He has his own telescope.”

 

His mini-Discovery was mainly made from cardboard and papier mache. Crepe paper provided the colour.

 

“It took us about a month,” said Natalie. “It was a bit of a labour of love trying to fit it on to the electric bike but it’s been worth it.

 

“It’s the first time we’ve entered the gala. We don’t have anything like this in Selsey and I saw a poster for it when we were in the town and decided to take part.”

 

The trophy was named after the late entertainer Erik Jack and presented by his wife, Melanie Harris.

 

Jason Passingham, chairman of the gala’s organisers, Bognor Regis Seafront Lights, told the crowd: “Erik compered here and he was the voice of Birdman and the Carnival.

 

“He was basically Mr Entertainment and he gave his life to this town. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago and we wanted to start an category for him for an entry which was a bit zany and was the result of someone making an effort.”

 

Another of the winners on Sunday night was a group which has an ever-present record of entering the gala – The Wonder Girls dance troupe.

 

Its 50 or so dancers won for best dance troupe for the second gala in a row.

 

Its founder, Debbie Marsh, said: “We love taking part in this event. The girls love the night-time parades because they don’t wear our uniform and can dress up.

 

“We really like taking part in the gala because it is in our home town. We have entered every year since I started the troupe 27 years ago on August 4. We will definitely be back again next year. I’ve already got the costumes planned.”

 

A total of 19 entries took part in the parade from West Park along the seafront, Aldwick Road, West Street, Lennox Street to rejoin the seafront and end at the pier.

 

It was followed by a colourful and noisy fireworks display from the pier and the night ended with the prize-giving.

 

Perfect conditions contrasted with the strong winds and heavy rain which caused last year’s parade to be scrapped and the fireworks to be delayed until the next night when a small crowd gathered.

 

Gala organiser Jason Passingham said he was delighted with the parade and the turnout of thousands of spectators.

 

“Every year, we have to meet stricter health and safety regulations. It’s quite stressful and hard work.

 

“It does make you wonder if it is worth the bother but when you see people coming out like tonight and all the happy, smiling faces because they are enjoying themselves, then it makes it worthwhile.

 

“We only had one float among the entries but it’s not about 50ft vehicles. It’s about the quality of those taking part – and we certainly had a lot of that tonight.”

 

Funds raised on the night will help to pay for new seafront lighting displays.

 

 

The gala has taken place most years since it began in 1978 and has been held for the past 17 years by the seafront lights volunteers to raise money for the displays.

 

This year’s gala was also filmed by a TV company for the BBC for a documentary series about Bognor Regis which is due to be screened in the autumn.

 

The camera crews had followed the build -up to the gala among their filming in the town during several weeks of talking to independent traders and volunteers.

 

The full list of winners was:

 

Dance troupe: The Wonder Girls

Walking: 1 Celebration Samba, =2 Rainbows Ice Cream Parlour/ Chestnuts Day Centre, 3 The Dog & Duck

Floats/motor vehicles: 1 Pitch Black Lighting, 2 Glow Show Minis, =3 Energie Fitness/ Fusion & Luxton Music

Pram/bicycle: 1 Harmony Hive, 2 Pinks Parlour, 3 Dotty Bubble Meet Ups

Erik Jack Memorial Trophy: Arlan West.

Most colourful collector: Lisa Martin

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