SANTA arrived to a hero’s welcome in Hartlepool.
Hundreds of excited youngsters with their families crowded into the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre to see Father Christmas on his sleigh.
Before St Nicholas made his appearance the crowd was entertained by TV favourites, Peppa Pig and her little brother, George.
Children were also wowed by music from the characters of the hit Disney film, Frozen.
Among those who were there to see Santa Claus, were the four Burn-McCrosson children, Chris, 14, Sophie, 12, Matthew, seven, and five-year-old Alex, who were with their parents, Lee Burn and Sarah McCrosson.
Sarah, who lives with her family in Collingwood Road, said: “It has been a really good event for the children, they have all enjoyed themselves.”
Also impressed by the entertainment was Lorraine Marlborough, who was there with her grandchildren, Connor Pearson, 10, and seven-year-old Kia Hurst.
The Collingwood Road grandmother, said: “They loved seeing Santa, the centre definitely put a good show on.”
Connor, who will be 11 on Christmas Day, said: “I enjoyed it. I don’t mind having my birthday on Christmas Day, I get two lots of presents.”
Following a parade through the town centre, Santa settled into his grotto to meet with the scores of youngsters queuing to give their present lists.
Throughout the day Peppa Pig and George were putting on shows for the children, before a final meet and greet in the afternoon.
The event, which also included a visit from charity group, Hartlepool Round Table, marked the start of the festive season in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre and Mark Rycroft, the complex manager, said he was delighted with the way it went.
He said: “It was absolutely brilliant. There was a huge amount of support for Santa, as well as Peppa Pig and George. I would say it was the best Santa arrival we have ever had.”
Santa’s grotto will be open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and then every day from December 19 to Christmas Eve. Opening times are 10.30am to 4.30pm and a visit costs £3.