IT was a party 100 years in the making as Blackpool celebrated the centenary of the Illuminations last night.
Thousands of people turned up at the specially-built auditorium on the Promenade’s new Festival Tower Headland as the heroes of Team GB flicked the switch to set the famous display ablaze.
Beaming with delight and deafened by rapturous applause from the excited crowd, gold medal stars Luke Campbell, Steven Burke and Sophie Hoskings were joined by bronze medallists Beth Tweddle, Max Whitlock and Karina Bryant to make the seafront sparkle in the Illuminations’ centenary year.
Beth - the Cheshire gymnast who won her first-ever Olympic medal on the uneven bars at London 2012 - said: “I’m loving every minute and making the most of it - I had fish and chips tonight. I’m a North West girl and I know how big this is.”
And bantamweight boxer Luke added: “Ever since I found out I was turning the Lights on I’ve been looking forward to it. It’s a huge honour.”
It was a night of firsts for the world-famous Illuminations with the big Switch-On party held on the seafront and alongside the Lights themselves for the first time in years, and the Olympians hitting the switch which triggered Blackpool Tower’s legs to light up again after a major overhaul of the iconic structure.
And it was not just sporting stars who the 20,000-strong crowd went wild for, with a stellar line-up for the pre show entertainment included Scouting for Girls, Paloma Faith, The Noisettes and X Factor winners Little Mix giving the crowd a night to remember.
Also popular were Britain’s Got Talent stars the Lovable Rogues and Layton singer songwriter Karima Francis.
Watching the show with her friends was 13-year-old Lisa Riley, a pupil at Blackpool’s St Mary’s Catholic College.
She told The Gazette: “It was really good, we got here about half six but it was worth getting wet.
“Scouting for Girls were my favourite.”
And friend Tierney O’Rourke, also 13, said: “Scouting for Girls were my favourite too and the Lovable Rogues were amazing.
“The switch-on was really good with the athletes and the tower looks cool.”
Fans had travelled from across the country to attend the event, and braved the rain to party in style.
Diane Price headed to Blackpool from Mold, North Wales, with sons Zak, 14 and Tom, 12, and said: “It was brilliant. The Overtones and Scouting for Girls were our favourites. We always come for the Illuminations but this is our first Switch-On. It was brilliant to see the Olympians as well.”
Nicki Mullen, 36, from Accrington added: “We thought it was amazing and really well put together.
“It was my eight-year-old son’s first gig and it was brilliant for the Olympians to be here, they’ve inspired a generation.”