Our Santa sidelined, claim Newmarket Lions

The grotto last year, in Newmarket's Memorial Hall
The grotto last year, in Newmarket's Memorial Hall

One of Newmarket’s best known fund-raising groups will not be taking part in this weekend’s Winter Wonderland event because, they claim, they have been sidelined by the organisers.

Newmarket Lions have provided a Christmas Grotto, complete with resident Santa Claus, every year since 1999, originally in the High Street during the town’s late night shopping events and, more recently, in the Memorial Hall as part of Winter Wonderland.

“Unfortunately, this year it seems Christmas is being ‘bought in’ and there is no room for us, a local charity that does endless good in the locality, to take part,” said Lions PR officer Chris Rawlinson.

“When we were offered the top floor of the Memorial Hall we decorated it all and people always commented on how magical it was.

“The children would be queuing for an hour before opening time and then they would all receive gifts and a personal letter from Father Christmas too.

“Last year we we saw more than 300 children and I’m sure many of them would have visited us again this year.

“We worked very hard to make Christmas special and we wanted to let everyone who has supported us over the past 18 years know that it certainly wasn’t our decision not to take part and to thank them for their loyal support.”

Robert Nobbs, chairman of the town council’s leisure services committee which has joined with Love Newmarket to stage this year’s Winter Wonderland, said he was sorry that the Lions felt sidelined.

“We welcome them to be a part of the weekend and they have been offered a space, free of charge, in the Memorial Hall” said Cllr Nobbs.

“We are keen that we engage with the whole community at every level to make the town’s major Christmas event a great success,” he added.