Murlough Community Association Invite Santa To Newcastle.
Snow was falling on the streets of Newcastle over the weekend as residents excitedly welcomed a very special visitor, all the way from the North Pole writes Laura Barr.
Hailed as the biggest local event of the year, young and old were beaming with the sight of Santa Claus who had taken time out of his busy schedule ahead of Christmas Eve to bring some Christmas cheer to every street in the town.
The event which took place on both Saturday and Sunday evenings was a huge success and had been organised by committee members from Murlough Community Association (MCA).
Santa along with festive characters including The Grinch, Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Frozen and some Elves were welcomed with claps, cheers and even a few tears as they drove around in Santa’s sleigh over the two evenings.
The Chairperson of Murlough Community Association (MCA), Newcastle resident Graham Crory, was instrumental in the successful organising of the event with help from Vice-Chair, Shane McClelland.
Speaking to Down News, Graham said the idea originated in November when he decided he wanted to do something to ‘lift the spirits’ of the people in Newcastle.
“MCA wanted to lift everyone’s mood in what has been a really tough year for everyone” he said.
Sinn Féin Mourne’s Councillor Willie Clarke has praised the Murlough community group, for the successful Santa sleigh initiative, the group decided to brighten up the lives of local families in Newcastle by bringing Santa to residents homes the community group were able to bring delight to children in their estates in a safe way, during this difficult time a bit of Christmas cheer was very welcome.”
Cllr Clarke said: “I want to thank all who organised sleigh to transport Santa and his helpers around the town so that all children had the opportunity to see Santa.
“Originally, the idea was for children to visit Santa in a horse box, one at a time, but this idea quickly grew into something much bigger”.
“The initiative was thoroughly supported by the communities, with many people waiting for Santa to arrive outside their homes, It brought joy to a lot of people, young and old.”
Graham Crory spoke about the possibilities of the Santa visit to other committee members and it was decided initially that Santa would visit the Burrendale and Burren Meadow estates and hand out selection boxes.
A poster was designed and the interest in the event grew and the visit then increased to five areas on the Castlewellan Road.
Graham said: “The information was shared on the MCA Facebook page and the interest from all residents in Newcastle was just fantastic and so we made the decision to visit as much of Newcastle as we possibly could.
“Our Vice-Chair Shane McClelland came up with the idea of visiting the Housing Folds in Newcastle so the elderly residents, many of whom have been isolating, could also enjoy the visit,” Graham added.
With the idea firmly cemented, the next task was to locate Santa’s sleigh.
The group were kindly offered the use of a trailer from Chris Clarke at AJC Electrical as well as a generator and lights.
Gareth Spiers from Santa’s Farm kindly provided Santa’s sleigh and organiser, Graham, a self-confessed lover of Christmas already had a snow machine, and Grinch, Olaf, Anna, Elsa and Elf suits and Shane had the speakers for the music.
“We picked up Santa at 4.30pm on the Saturday, after he had flown in especially from the North Pole and went to our first visit of the two-day event to a home on the Main Street, for adults with learning difficulties.
“Then on to Lawnfield Fold accompanied by our wonderful characters who were kindly organised by Denise Malone from YMCA who had the resources to provide the best group of characters we could ask for.”
The festive entourage then made their way to the different folds in Newcastle where they encountered a “truly magical moment”.
Graham explained: “We had been informed of a lady who sadly isn’t going to be with us much longer and who was really looking forward to seeing Santa. So, the big man got off his sleigh and spent some time with this lady having a great laugh and chat.
“The smile on the ladies face was just beautiful and it was just such a special moment for everyone.”
Santa then visited Autism Initiatives and Slieve Dhu where he again dismounted the sleigh to see the residents who were excitedly waiting inside.
“Santa made his way around to a room surrounded by windows and was able to dance with everyone from the other side of the glass.
“The characters blew kissed and the Grinch even twerked.
“The smiles would have melted anyone’s hearts!”
Santa then delivered selection boxes to children in the Castlewellan Road areas kindly provided by Tesco, Mourne Fresh Foods and the Barbican Newcastle.
Graham said that on Sunday evening the buzz and excitement was something he had “never seen before”.
People had been messaging him during the day to make sure they caught a glimpse of the big man.
The sleigh travelled up the Dundrum Road, onto the harbour area and into Tullybrannigan.
“We were greeted with claps, cheers, screams and a few tears” continued Graham.
“We then made our way through the Bryansford Road streets and up to the Tollymore Road.
“Santa then had one last stop at the Christmas Tree on Main Street before he set off back to the North Pole.”
Graham said the appreciation from every household was very evident at the weekend and made all the planning and preparation well worth it.
“I hope this has been a good experience for the town.
“The community spirit we saw in each and every area of Newcastle has been amazing, and we hope to plan many more community events in 2021.”
If anyone would like to make a donation to MCA future events, they can do so on the following GoFundMe page:
MCA is funded by County Down Rural Community Network as well as the Department for Communities ‘Warm, Well and Connected’ programme.