THOUSANDS of people flocked to Devizes yesterday evening to see out of this world lanterns shine.

Leading the parade was a lantern of a spaceman created by Devizes Air Cadets which was fitting as the theme for this year's Christmas light switch-on was inspired by the first moon landing.

Karolyn Pike from the group said: "It took about 15 hours to create."

A number of primary schools from the town and surrounding villages held workshops to create lanterns in a wide array of shapes and sizes.

Teacher Jenny Crowe from Southbroom Infants led a group of around 20 pupils. She said: "As our children are very young we held workshops but concentrated on basic shapes. All of the children love taking part and are very excited."

Wansdyke School used the theme of flight for its pupils' creations of planes which looked spectacular. Teacher Oliver Smith said: "We are studying World War One and two and so incorporated the lantern making of the aircraft into that."

The small village school of Oare, near Pewsey, also had lanterns that stood out from the crowd. Its pupils had created a whole solar system of brightly coloured planets and many of the children wore hand crafted space helmets.

Headteacher Gudrun Osborn said: "It is our third year taking part. The children adore the lantern parade."

A giant whale lantern was also part of the parade and Mayor Judy Rose joined Father Christmas on a brightly lit sleigh pulled by a steam engine.

The parade left Maryport Street bang on time of 6.15pm and wound its way along Sheep Street and Long Street watched by a vast crowd which had been drawn to the streets on a cold but clear night to join in the fun.

Thousands more people had already taken their places in the Market Place ready for Santa to arrive and climb to the top of a specially designed tower ready for the light switch-on countdown.

There was a huge cheer as the lights went on and fireworks lit up the night sky and organisers from Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts could breathe a huge sigh of relief of another mission accomplished.