‘A HUGE success’.

That’s how the 2019 Otley Victorian Fayre, which attracted thousands of people on Sunday, December 1 has been described by many of those who took part.

Otley’s big pre-Christmas event, which sees the town centre pedestrianised to make way for festive stalls and entertainment, was packed out this year - and visited by Santa himself.

Many of the stallholders and shopkeepers, plus visitors, donned period costume for the day.

People wrapped up well to endure the cold, but dry, conditions and were rewarded with everything from carol singing, featuring local schoolchildren dressed as Victorian urchins, to seasonal refreshments including roasted chestnuts and mulled wine.

Further music was provided by Otley Brass Band and harmony singers Same Difference, while fairground rides, a snow machine and street organs also kept the crowds busy.

This year’s fayre was the final one for Chair Steph Lee, of Otley Town Partnership, who has stepped down after about 14 years in charge.

Otley Town Mayor Councillor Peter Jackson congratulated Steph, and her volunteer team, for organising yet another ‘great day out’.

He said: “This year’s Victorian Fayre was a huge success with thousands of visitors.

“The local businesses and pubs were bustling and it was great to see so many stallholders and visitors specially dressed for the occasion.

“I spoke to hundreds of people whilst walking around the town, each one paying compliments to the event.

“I wish to thank the entire event committee for putting this together year after year and I particularly wish to thank the now retired Chair Steph Lee, who after 14 years has decided to hang up her bonnet.

“Over those 14 years we have seen Steph expand the fayre into a huge, family fun-filled day.

“From submitting plans to Leeds City Council and contacting stall holders to arranging road closures, traffic management, security and so in it has required so much organisation.

“Steph was still busy on Sunday ensuring the event went smoothly - Iwish her all the very best for her future plans.”

Also paying tribute were Victorian re-enactors Stephen Holt and Tony Wheatcroft, who have visited past fayres dressed as Victorian policemen.

Mr Holt said: “We have attended the Christmas fayre for more than seven years and are aware this was Steph Lee’s last event as the main coordinator. We would just like to thank her and all her colleagues for the tremendous hard work they all put in to make a fantastic event.”

Drama fans were also treated on Sunday to two performances of a festive tale with a difference - The Christmas Snap-Dragons.

Set in Victorian Otley the play was written especially for Otley Players who put on three, free performances - including two during the fayre - at the Black Horse Hotel over the weekend.

Speaking just after completing the post fayre clean-up operation, Steph thanked all the volunteers who helped make the event possible. She added: “I do feel as if I ran a marathon but I am so very proud of an event that has grown so much since its early days.

“I volunteered to help the Victorian Fayre committee after my husband died in 2005. It was on a Friday night when I joined to help put the programme together, and the event attracted about 5,000 people.

“By the time we approached our 25th year I was in charge of the whole event and suggested moving it to a Sunday, and extending the hours to six.

“The police had become ever more worried about safety on the Friday evening and we had to struggle with drunks, angry day-time stallholders, stink bombs and silly string!

“Since the move though, the event has never looked back although there is still a group of people who cry for a return to the Friday evening slot.”