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Sunday, 19th November 2023

Thousands turn out in West Street to welcome Santa to Drogheda

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After a brief second while everyone on the stage held their breath, the lights overhead flickered into life. Christmas in Drogheda had started!

By Andy Spearman

It was cold and wet but that didn’t matter. Nothing could dampen the spirits of the children of Drogheda as they waited in their thousands for Santa to arrive on Friday evening to switch on the Christmas lights.

They had started gathering at half five or so to get a good spot at the front of the stage where a show of singing and dancing was going to take place at 6.00pm.

It had been dry all day but unfortunately the weather changed and by showtime the rain was bucketing down.

But no one was complaining, well none of the children at least. Some of the Mammies and Daddies were beginning to look none too happy though.

“What time is Santy coming? was the question on everyone’s lips but not even that consummate professional, LMFM’s Gerry Kelly, who was MC for the gig, had the answer to that one.

Finally, at about 6.10 Gerry took to the stage to welcome the huge crowd and to get the show on the road and an hour of sweet music, singing and dancing ensued.

Cillian O’Connor refused to tell Gerry Kelly how he does his magic tricks.

Much of this was greeted with applause but it wasn’t singing and dancing they had come for.  They wanted Santa!

The biggest round pf applause was for Elsa and her friends from Frozen. Elsa is the darling of every little girl in the western world and she can do no wrong. Whatever about that, she kept everyone amused for ten minutes or so on Friday but there was still no sign of Santa, his reindeer, or his sleigh.

Drogheda United Manager Kevin Doherty tells Gerry Kelly what he wants from Santa.

I met another darling little girl at the front of the crowd and took her photo. Her name is Natalia O’Neill, she’s eleven years old and has the sweetest smile in Drogheda, perhaps in the whole world.

Natalia was sitting in the coolest wheelchair I’ve ever seen. It raises and lowers at the press of a button and had an umbrella attached (transparent plastic so she didn’t block anyone’s view) so she kept dry and both her hands were free to clap which she did enthusiastically.

Natalia and all the other children were having a ball, singing along to every song that Elsa and her buddies could throw at them.

Gerry interviewed anyone who would talk to him – Drogheda United Manager Kevin Doherty who was in the news having just signed a new contract with the club and, well we all know what he wants for Christmas. C’mon the Drogs!

He then had a few words with Mornington magic boy Cillian O’Connor who wowed the world with his amazing tricks on the Britain’s Got Talent TV show a few months ago.

Cillian had been mingling with the crowd helping a team from Drogheda Credit Union to judge their Christmas Jumper Competition.

Eleven year-old Natalia O’Neill has the sweetest smile in Drogheda, perhaps in the whole world.

But where was Santa? Gerry had promised he’d be arriving any minute for what seemed like hours.

A man dressed in red was spotted backstage and Gerry started to get very excited. “Who’s this I see?” he asked as he peered backstage. “could it be…., I think it might be…

“But then the steps to the stage got blocked by a dancing polar bear and a giant snowman who both tried to get ahead of the other and got stuck!

Not even this could phase Gerry though. Like the true professional he is, he managed to clear the way for them and then came the announcement that we’d all been waiting for:

“And now ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, put your hands together for our special guest, welcome onstage please (slight pause) …. SANTA CLAUS!!!!!

Never has Gerry had such a round of applause for one of his guests. The whole of West Street was full of excited upturned faces and they all erupted with cheers as Santa, as if by magic, finally appeared on stage.

To be honest, I thought Santa was a bit of a disappointment. He LOOKED like a man who had just flown in from the North Pole on a one-horse open sleigh – windswept and dishevelled.

Judging by the reception he was getting from the kids though, I think I was a minority of one in that opinion. They LOVED him and he regaled them with stories of visiting far-away exotic places such as Dundalk.

He came bearing gifts of course, but his main reason for being there was to switch on the town’s Christmas lights and, cognisant perhaps that the weather was not improving, he quickly got round to the matter in hand.

Mayor of Drogheda, Councillor Eileen Tully, also dressed head to toe in red, got the honour of helping Santa, along with the winners of the Love Drogheda colouring competition, to press a lever and, after a brief second while everyone on the stage held their breath, the lights overhead flickered into life.

Christmas in Drogheda had started! Seconds later the mayor could be seen dancing with Santa and that’s not a sight you see too often.

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