THE big wheel will not be returning to Chester this Christmas – because city managers can’t find anywhere to put it.
Despite indications last year that residents and visitors would be able to look forward to having the gigantic wheel towering over the city for three festive seasons, alongside an ice rink, it was announced this week that neither would be coming back for 2011.
Last year’s Winter Wonderland on Castle Square was hailed a massive success with claims it had pulled in more than 250,000 people and netted £2.2m towards the region’s economy.
But the partnership which has put together this year’s festive package – which includes Cheshire West and Chester Council, Chester Renaissance, Chester City Management and Chester Festivals – say the emphasis will be on a traditional Christmas market in Town Hall Square with smaller children’s rides including a toboggan-style helter skelter.
Hopes the wheel would feature for another two years were dashed after the courts refused permission for the event to return to Castle Square and no alternative city centre location could be found.
The ice rink was dropped after it failed to pull in enough customers last time.
It is hoped to attract higher quality stalls to the outdoor market selling gifts as well as festive treats like mulled wine and roast chestnuts.
Bringing the market into the heart of Chester, with traders selling complementary goods to existing retailers, aims to boost city centre business generally.
Rita Waters, chief executive of Chester Renaissance, said: “The fact is we haven’t got a wheel but there is so much more than we have had previously.
“There is something for everybody.”
Highlights include the lights switch-on on November 10, with a Big Sing featuring several choirs, plus a programme of weekend activities in the run-up to Christmas Day.
This will involve an enlarged lantern parade, classic cars at the start of the Chester-Monte Carlo rally and international street performers.
Tracy Lynn, of Chester Festivals, which has successfully staged Chestival over the past two summers, said: “We are going back to a traditional Christmas where light and music will lead visitors through our cobbled streets to buy their special gifts.”