GRASSINGTON’S Dickensian Festival got off to a marvellous start on Saturday as locals and visitors alike got into the Christmas spirit in true Victorian style.

An important date on the district’s calendar, for almost four decades, the festival runs over the first two weekends of December and brings, fun, food and festivities, as well as many thousands of visitors, to the Dales village.

The first weekend has proved hugely successful with the streets packed with visitors to soak up the atmosphere and seek out those unusual Christmas gifts as a memento of their visit.

As well as dozens of stall, there was the usual mix of Victorian style entertainment, brass bands, ‘hurdy-gurdy’, singers and dancers and slapstick comedy routines.

During the two weekends, festival goers are also able to enjoy Punch and Judy, magic shows, jugglers, buskers and hot chestnut stalls.

Shoppers will be able to browse more than 50 outdoor stalls, and also the indoor Christmas craft market, as well as all the many family-owned, traditional shops.

There is also a Santa’s grotto - a must for those with small children, community carol singing, a nativity in the square, and a procession of light led by Mary and Joseph on their donkey.

The festival was begun in 1981 and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in two years.

In the meantime, all hands have been on deck to ensure this year’s goes smoothly.

“It has been a marvellous start to the festival. We couldn’t have hoped for any better. The weather was cold, but fine and the village was really busy on both days,” said co-ordinator Angela Jackson.

“We’ve seen record crowds arriving with over 1,000 cars in the car park and 85 coaches.

“Four double decker buses spent all day bringing in people from the park and ride stops in Swinden and Threshfield quarries and everything went like clockwork.”

She said the village was proud of the format the festival takes which makes in unique in the district and keeps people coming back.

“The festival is about localism. We have Skipton and Ermysted’s bands and Threshfield Primary School Choir providing entertainment.

“All the local charities benefit hugely, from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association which has its hub right next to the coach park, to the churches which open their doors and sell drinks, to the schools and even the town hall.

“A lot say it is their biggest fundraiser of the year.

“We keep it with a Victoria feel because it fits the village so well. So many of our buildings are centuries old and the theme blends in perfectly.

“People, as well as stall holders and organisers, dress up for the occasion and it all looks brilliant.

“The shops are all brightly lit and lights are festooned among the stalls. Everyone works together and it really does boost businesses in the run up to Christmas,” she said.

The highlight for youngsters is Father Christmas in his grotto, which is co-ordinated by members of Grassington in Bloom.

“We (the festival committee) provides the Santa, while the Grassington in Bloom group provides the gifts for the children and organises the helpers etc. It works very well

Grassington Dickensian Festival continues on Saturday, December 7, and on Sunday, December 8, from 11am to 5pm. To find out more,