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Successful re-vamp of Christmas in the Park

December 23rd, 2012
[by David Armstrong]

The re-vamped Christmas in the Park gets a big tick, with a large and buoyant crowd of mainly families enjoying the games and entertainment in Decks Reserve last night.

Pastor Shane Murray of the Church of Christ said his team of organisers weren't sure if they'd get a crowd of 300, or 500 or even 1000, but in the end the crowd easily exceeded those expectations.

With near-perfect wedding and the wide open spaces of central Decks Reserve, and a well-organised programme, the crowd went home smiling and with the final lively Christmas song, Felice Navidad, playing on their lips.

The highlight of the evening, surprisingly for parents as well as the swarm of children, was the arrival of Santa by helicopter. Circling twice overhead and edging closer to the crowd, he waved to the enthralled crowd and finally settled on the cleared space.

From then, for over 15 minutes he was mobbed by excited kids receiving cheer and glow sticks, adding colour as darkness closed in.

Jack and Ben, visiting from Nelson, said they most enjoyed the big bouncy castle and the tasty lollipops.

The evening began with some audience participation games organised by High School youth workers Mark Spencer and Lyall Carter. The two large bouncy castles, merry-go-round and ferris wheel were also in continuous use for the whole 2½ hour event.

At 8.30pm the entertainment began, with many items - mainly modern versions of popular Christmas carols - backed by a gutsy band comprising musicians and chorus from the Church of Christ and Baptist Church. People singing along and tapping their toes showed that the music struck a chord with the crowd. (See photo below.)

A delightful set of modern dances, including the now mandatory Gangnam Style, were performed by the Vision Dance Studio group of youngsters from around 4 years to 14, including two brave and athletic lads.

Solos were performed by Miriam Fraser (Silent Night) and keyboardist Paul Jeffries (Oh Holy Night), and More FM's Katrina Smith kept things moving as MC.

Pastor Murray presented a Christmas message about the special emotions that arise from the birth of a baby, and challenged people to extend their involvement in the season by attending church the next day.

In recent years Christmas in the Park has been run by the Recreation Centre staff in Goodman Park, but they were happy to pass on the baton this year to the Church of Christ to provide a fresh approach.

Pastor Murray had said if it went well the church would build on the event in future years as a great way to engage the whole community in a real Christmas celebration and coming together. It looks as though that wish has been justified.

The principal sponsor was Birdhurst, with a large number of local businesses and individuals also helping with the finances and lending equipment. Many church members helped in the smooth running of the event and marshalling the crowds.

In the past several years the Church of Christ has packed out its church on Christmas Eve with 300 or more celebrating Christmas. They decided now to present their message to the wider community.

All proceeds from evening's offering will support the Motueka High School 24-7 programme, which is in its second year of operation. This programme, a joint venture of the High School, Motueka Church of Christ and Motueka Baptist Church, pays for two youth workers to help out full-time at the school, mixing with students and mentoring any needing help.



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