Visitors to Melton’s annual Christmas tree festival couldn’t help but be charmed as they entered to see around 1,300 trees twinkling throughout St Mary’s Church.
This year’s exhibits ranged from the traditionally decorated to those with striking innovative themes and even included some left-field efforts such as a figure of former tennis player John McEnroe dressed in fairy lights.
The whole community seems to take part in this popular tradition now, with trees provided by large and small businesses, charities and youth organisations.
Organiser Ian Neale said: “We’ve had 310 different organisations and businesses taking part this year which is way up on last year.
“I would say we’ve reached our limit with the number of trees but we did say that last year.
“It’s a very popular festival once again.”
It was the first event to be held in the historic church since the £1.9 Re-ordering Project was completed at the end of last month.
The building has been completely renovated with a level floor, to aid disabled and elderly visitors, and underfloor heating two of the main features.
There is also a new kitchen servery area, which was being put to good use with hot drinks and food being served during the festival, and new toilets.
The main door also now has a draught porch with glass inner doors which activate automatically.
Mr Neale said: “The floor has made access to the building so much easier for many people this year.
“The feedback on the changes to the church has been mainly positive - a couple of people said it was too warm but most people are very happy with it.”
Among the trees this year was one from Melton Breast Cancer Support Group, which was decorated with pink ribbons and the names of fondly remembered relatives.
Melton Mowbray Photographic Society bedecked their tree with photos from the 70 years the group has been running and Leicestershire Police hung knitted policemen and women from the branches of theirs.
The Royal Air Force Association exhibited a wooden spitfire with a Christmas tree forming the body of the plane and Melton Lions displayed images of the various charitable activies it organises.
People of all ages took part this year, including two-year-olds from the Oasis Family Centre with their ‘Twinkle Winkle Little Star’ tree.
A large crowd packed into the church on Thursday night for the official start of the festival, with former Beirut hostage Terry Waite the special guest.
Mr Waite, who spent nearly 2,000 days in captivity 30 years ago, announced ‘let there be light’ before turning on the lights after the count of three.
The president of the Emmaus charity, he was presented with a cheque for £800 for the cause by members of St Mary’s Church - the proceeds of a quiz night and donations from the charitable giving fund.
A collection was also taken at a Songs of Praise service in the church on Sunday night as part of the festival, with proceeds going to Emmaus Leicestershire and Rutland.