LAST NIGHT the Winter Wonderland launched at Chester Racecourse, but unfortunately at the end of the night large groups of visitors were left saying, “Let us go, let us go, let us go”.
Coinciding with the official launch of Christmas festivities in Chester, the Winter Wonderland opened alongside the Christmas Market and the Parade of Light. For one night only the Winter Wonderland offered free entry to visitors, before reverting to the regular admission price of £5 for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, as a result of the popularity of the event, many patrons were left out in the cold and refused entry. In many cases, families were turned away despite having queued for up to half an hour.
Chay Hawes of Handbridge was one such member of the public. Speaking to Mr. Hawes following the event, he told us, “We were walking into town with our three-year-old son to watch the Christmas light switch-on parade, where we saw various groups dancing down the street and parading their paper lanterns. Our son was very happy to see Father Christmas waving from his float. It was when we made our way to the racecourse to the Winter Wonderland that things went wrong.”
“Heaving with spectators, we were stuck with dozens of others on a stairwell with nobody making any progress in either direction. We were essentially trapped on the stairs, the parade had long since passed by that stage.”
“Once out of the city walls everyone piles towards the racecourse entrances. After queuing for a while, someone yells, ‘They’ve closed the gates!’ Nobody in our queue is willing to believe them at this stage. More and more people head towards us and confirm the gates have been closed.”
“People start to climb under the racecourse barriers and make a dash across the grass, as a pair of very young and anxious looking teenage helpers plead with people not to jump the barriers. I guess this is what happens when the organisers are woefully under prepared for the numbers of people that will attend.”
Chester Race Company has since posted a statement on the issue, claiming the number of visitors as “unprecedented”.
They wrote: “As a live, free event, it is always hard to anticipate in advance how many people will attend an event, last year’s switch on was attended by around a thousand people. The site experience pinch points when the parade arrived at the racecourse and people were inconvenienced and we apologise if you were affected.”
“Decisions to close the gates were taken for safety reasons as crowds were being closely monitored on CCTV to ensure additional exit routes could be opened to ease congestion. Again if you were one of those we offer our apologies.”