IF you’re looking to enjoy 'a quintessentially English Christmas market' look no further than Knutsford this weekend.

The Christmas Market Weekend is one of the highlights of the year for townspeople and visitors alike, and draws thousands of people attracted to its superb festive street market and entertainment.

One of the highlights of the weekend is the reindeer parade and the Christmas lights switch-on in Canute Place on Saturday.

The Christmas Market Weekend is organised by Knutsford Town Council, and has become a hugely popular attraction since being launched in 2010.

The success of the festive street market and the crowds it attracts have seen the council introduce a park and ride scheme this year to help take the hassle out of getting in and out of town.

“The Christmas markets are really important for the traders and the permanent businesses, and attract families and people of all ages,” said Cllr Andrew Malloy, chairman of the town council’s events committee.

“We get people from all over, including Manchester, Liverpool and Derbyshire, coming to the markets, which offer a fantastic range of unique gift ideas and a really Christmassy atmosphere.

“Canute Place is packed with people when the lights are switched on, and everyone seems to enjoy it.

“If you want to experience a quintessentially English Christmas market in a quintessentially English town come to Knutsford this weekend.

“It always attracts fantastic support from the townspeople, and promises to be another memorable festive event.”

The park and ride will run from Booths Hall, where there will be free parking, and provide a five-minute bus journey to the market, with passengers being dropped off at the bus station in Bexton Road.

The initiative is being run by volunteers from the Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme. There is no charge, but donations are invited, which will be shared between the town council and the vaccination programme.

The Christmas markets will feature about 120 stalls each day, and run from midday to 7pm tomorrow, Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday, the park and ride starting at 11.30am and 10.30am respectively on each day.

Tomorrow, Saturday, visitors will find the Best of the Market stall in the centre of the market, where tickets will be on sale to win a collection of 120 prizes donated by the festive market traders.

These are offered as one enormous prize to the lucky winner, with ticket proceeds going to the Mayor’s local charities. Tickets are £2, and the raffle will be drawn on the performance stage by the town mayor before the lights switch-on.

Santa’s grotto will again be situated on Silk Mill Street, where children will be greeted by Santa’s elves, who are helping to raise money for the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust.

The Win A Ride competition winner will ride with Santa and his reindeer from the Moor, along King Street, Minshull Street and into Canute Place, leaving Moorside at 5pm to arrive in Canute Place at about 5.20pm.

There will be the opportunity to meet Santa and his reindeer in Canute Place before the lights switch-on at 6pm, performed by Town Mayor Cllr Peter Coan, Mayor’s Cadet Max Risley, Knutsford May Queen Sophie Howarth and Santa.

There will be road closures on Canute Place on Saturday and Princess Street on Saturday and Sunday.

Vehicles must not be left overnight on Friday or Saturday as they will obstruct the setting-up of the event.

Princess Street and Silk Mill Street car parks will also be closed as a result and vehicles must not be left there.

A Park and Walk scheme will be run by Knutsford Football Club, which is opening its car park in Manchester Road for Sunday’s event.

Canute Place will be transformed into a mini arena between 1pm and 7pm tomorrow, Saturday, offering entertainment from local musicians, dancers and community and school choirs, along with hot food and drinks.

The line-up sees the return of some of the musicians from the town’s music festival, with Sam Lyon and Michael Gibson on stage at 1.30pm and 2.15pm respectively.

In between will see a performance by St Vincent’s school choir at 2pm, followed by Chris Howarth and Friends at 2.35pm, Manor Park school choir at 3pm and PopVox Knutsford at 3.30pm.

SMB Dance perform at 4pm, followed by Bexton and Yorston Lodge school choirs at 4.30pm and 4.55pm respectively.

Santa is due to arrive at 5.15pm, followed by a performance by Egerton school choir at 5.30pm and the switching-on of the lights at 6pm.

Headline act Polar States, a dark-pop band who perform around the UK festival circuit, take to the stage a few minutes later to entertain the crowds.

On Sunday The Get Back Band will be performing rock and roll 60s numbers outside the Lost and Found in aid of Alzheimer’s Society.

Two Knutsford businesses have come forward to support this year’s events, with the owners of Tatton Street’s Caledonian House, Bruntwood, sponsoring the lights on Tatton Street and Speedy Freight of Knutsford Business Park sponsoring the Christmas tree in Canute Place.

Now in its fifth year, Knutsford’s Lantern Parade and Crib Service will be taking place on Saturday, December 8 at 5pm.

With large lantern displays designed and crafted by Handmade Parade, the parade will be accompanied by the City of Chester Brass Band, and the procession will be led from the Barncroft behind St Cross Church, along King Street, Minshull Street and into Princess Street, where a crib service will be held in front of the Lost and Found.