FRIDAY (November 28) was anything but black in Littlehampton as hundreds of residents rallied together to witness the town’s magical Christmas light illuminations being switched on.
Littlehampton was positively brimming with festive cheer, with many stores staying open later than usual for the occasion.
And despite much negative talk, nationally, about frantic shoppers fighting one another to get the best deals, Littlehampton’s bustling trade was far more civilised but equally as fruitful.
The town’s High Street was crammed with street vendors selling everything from roasted chestnuts and delicious candy floss to delicate handmade good and crafts – ideal stocking fillers and presents.
There was also a whole host of live performances from the likes of the Edwin James Festival Choir, who serenaded shoppers with festive tunes and carols, to the TLA Steel Band, which added a calypso twist to some more traditional Christmas numbers.
Back once again with their ‘reindeer’ regulars were Horsedrawn Occasions, which brought two Suffolk punch horses, Bear and Ottis, who transformed into Rudolph and Prancer to give revellers a Yuletide horse-drawn tour down the eastern end of the High Street.
But the star attraction of the show was the big switch-on.
Littlehampton mayor Jill Long was accompanied by inspirational schoolgirl Jaime Doherty, who pressed the big red plunger to turn on the festive display.
Nine-year-old Jaime, a year-four pupil at River Beach Primary School, was selected from scores of nominations for her story.
The youngster regularly helps to care for her little sister, Ellen, seven, who has epilepsy.
Speaking about Jaime’s kindheartedness, a visibly touched Jill, said: “When you consider how young Jaime is – only nine – and that she is helping to look after her seven-year-old sister, it’s tough, it’s really tough.
“She is a truly incredible little girl because she isn’t just helping her little sister when she needs it, but helping her mum and dad, too.”
The shocked youngster, who was accompanied by her sister, parents, Russ and Suzanna, and other members of the family, said: “It felt absolutely amazing to switch on the lights. I can’t believe I got to do it.”
She was presented with a 7in Samsung tablet computer by Aaron Winter, of Titan Storage, the event’s overall sponsor.
Aaron was also touched by her story. “My brother has epilepsy too, so I know just what it’s like,” he said.
“I totally understand where she is coming from, having to help out.
“I think that it’s fantastic that she got to turn on the lights because it’s nice to get that sort of recognition for all her hard work.”
Jaime’s dad, Russ, of Dean Close, Wick, said: “We’re just so proud of both our girls.
“Ellen suffers quite a lot and has a lot of seizures. Jaime is always there to look after her and support her when she needs it.
“A lot of our attention is for Ellen so Jaime does get left out quite a bit, so it’s nice for her to get this recognition.”
The night was organised by Littlehampton Town Council and supported by traders, Titan Storage and Spirt FM.