EXCITED children cheered Santa’s arrival in Hartlepool as festive families flocked to the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
Hundreds of people turned out to welcome Father Christmas for the opening of his new grotto.
Dressed in red, Santa rode into the shopping centre on his sleigh after an entertaining build up by talented town dancers from the Val Armstrong School of Dance and award-winning street dance troupe Lil Diamondz.
Santa’s arrival was organised by Hartlepool Round Table which raises money for scores of local good causes.
Mark Rycraft, Middleton Grange manager and Round Table member, said: “It’s been a fantastic day and we’ve had a good response from the general public.
“The centre was packed. It is about bringing people together in a community spirit.”
The entertainment included numerous impressive displays of modern and tap dance.
And the youngest Val Armstrong dancers gave a heart warming dance as the characters from Toy Story.
In the crowd was David Cooper, who went along with his wife Alison and their daughters Grace, eight, and Madeleine, five.
David, 44, of Arncliffe Gardens, Hartlepool, said: “This is the first year we have come down for it. It was really good.”
Santa’s grotto is not in the main square this year, but in a unit on the first floor near Iceland.
Among those first in the queue, was Gary Allen with two-year-old Daisy and friend Haleigh Richardson and her daughter Millie, aged two.
Gary, 39, a student from Grange Road, Hartlepool, said: “It is their first time seeing Santa. They really enjoyed today and are excited about Christmas coming.”
Shoppers were also put in the mood for Christmas when a festive Coca-Cola lorry, just like the one from the famous TV advert, pulled up at Hartlepool’s Tesco Extra store in Burn Road.
The visit was part of the truck’s nationwide tour of Tesco stores in the run up to Christmas.
People took the opportunity to buy presents and stock up on food at a Christmas Fair held on HMS Trincomalee at Hartlepool Maritime Experience yesterday afternoon.
The event, held on the gun deck and in the Captain’s Cabin of the world’s oldest floating warship, was one of a series of planned festive events to be held on the ship.