A CHRISTMAS event has been slammed as being ‘an embarrassment’ and ‘a shambles’ amid complaints over chaotic queues to see a Santa with his beard hanging round his neck.

Shaun Watson, 40, went with his wife Hayley and children, Frankie, two and Evelyn one, to meet Father Christmas at Northallerton Town Hall on Friday night and said the whole thing was ‘absolutely shocking’.

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He described disorganised queues, busy traffic along the high street which wasn’t closed off as families crowded among building work barriers for up to an hour to see a Santa with a fake beard hanging under his chin.

Scores of people who attended have also vented their disappointment at the free event on social media, questioning why the high street wasn’t closed off make it safer for the crowds attending and why the stewards weren’t organising the queues better.

Northallerton Town Council, who organised the event, described the occasion as having a ‘lively atmosphere’ which saw around 500 children receive gifts from Santa.

Though they acknowledged space restrictions caused by the high street construction work meant it was ‘more crowded than anticipated’, discussions beforehand had led to the decision not to close the high street.

They said a review would be taking place over how to improve the event in future.

The Northern Echo:

Father Christmas came under fire for not wearing his beard properly

Shaun said: “It should’ve have been a big deal for the kids in the town and I don’t think they could have got it any worse.

“Most people missed Santa arriving because I think he was on the back of a Land Rover trailer or something among all the usual traffic, buses and cars, along the high street.

“When Barkers used to organise it, Santa used to come through the town on a horse and carriage and it was a great event.

“It needs dealing with because if it is going to happen like this again next year, it’ll just be shocking.

“There were ‘elves’ stood around in hi-vis jackets doing nothing about the crowding situation and when I told one steward how bad the Santa was she just laughed at me.

“My children are at the age where they love all the Christmas stuff and I’ve been looking for another Santa event because I need to convince them that there is a Santa Claus and he isn’t an old man with a cotton wool beard hanging down round his neck.”

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Complaints about the event have flooded facebook community pages over the weekend.

One resident branded it ‘embarrassing for our town’, adding: “The whole thing was a shambles.

“Why did they not close the road for a start?

“Cars and buses trying to get through crowds of people, they're lucky no one got hurt.

“Were they expecting just a few people to turn up? Such a shame for the kids.”

Another said that the organisation was ‘terrible’, adding: “We went in a couple of shops after and heard different people talking about how bad it was, and then to top it off, Santa couldn't be bothered to wear his beard properly, thankfully our son is only two and didn't notice.”

One angry visitor wrote: “If that was Northallerton’s best effort then God help us”, while a grandma took to social media to describe the event as ‘terrible’ and ‘so sad for the kids’.

She added: “My granddaughter did not even get to see Santa as people just pushed in and made it impossible for her to see him, she went home very upset - and for Santa, (he) could have put his beard on properly.

“It’s been such a disappointment.”

Another resident was equally scathing, saying it should have been cancelled, adding: “It would be interesting to know how many children have stopped believing (in Santa).”

Responding to the complaints in a statement to The Northern Echo, the town council said: “Northallerton Town Council would like to thank everyone who attended the Festive Friday event.

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“There was a lively atmosphere on the High Street, due to the very high attendance, with more than 500 children receiving presents from Santa and High Street businesses benefiting from additional custom during late opening.

“We had detailed discussions with representatives of Hambleton’s Multi-Agency Safety Advisory Group beforehand and were advised that closure of the High Street was not necessary.

“However, space restrictions around the Town Hall, caused by the Town Square reconstruction works, meant it was more crowded on the night than had been anticipated.

“All those who wanted to meet Santa were able to do so.

“Nevertheless, we acknowledge that some negative comments have been posted on social media and, as always after events, we will undertake a thorough review to establish where improvements can be made for the future including an online survey of the public about the evening.”

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