Wonder-Wal! LIGHTS: Crowds come out as organisers turn on Walsall Illuminations.
THE switch has been thrown for a sparkling start to this year's Walsall Illuminations.
After weeks of preparation, displays designed to thrill youngsters and entertain families were finally unveiled at a special preview launch last night.
Organisers Walsall Council hope the combination of live entertainment, hi-tech lights and children's TV favourites in the picturesque setting of the town's famous Arboretum will get the crowds flocking in after a disappointing turnout last year.
More than 50 workers have spent six weeks assembling the show which has more than 250 light features.
In excess of 30 miles of cable have been installed along with thousands of light bulbs ready for the opening night tomorrow when gates open at 7pm.
Coun Louise Harrison, Walsall Council cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: "We're getting so close now I really can't wait for it to start. I can't wait to see the faces on the first families that come into the Arboretum and see what we have in store. It's always amazing to see the Arboretum light up into a real blaze of colour."
For the opening night, Bob the Builder stars in a 20-minute show in the 1,200 capacity marquee repeated four times throughout the night to allow everyone to enjoy the fun.
Dora the Explorer will also be paying a visit to the show on Saturday and on Sunday from 7pm, visitors are encouraged to come along dressed as a wizard for a Hocus Pocus party night.
The event also sees SpongeBob Squarepants star in a laser exhibit over the lake with children's rides, a short film with Titan the robot and refreshments also on offer.
This year's illuminations features two big new scenes starring Dora the Explorer and her friend Diego. Children can also complete an activity book during their visit.
Visitors to Walsall can follow the information signs from the M6 to the park and ride off Broadway.
Walsall Illuminations 2008 runs to November 2 with all tickets bought in advance valid on any of the 38 nights it is running.
Advance tickets start at pounds 6 for adults with children under three admitted free.
Family tickets are also available. They can be bought through outlets, or www.walsall-lights.com or by calling 0845 111 2909.
FAMILY FUN...Theo Williams, aged 11, and his seven-year-old brother Max, from Wolverhampton; and (inset) four-year-old Walsall twins Grace and Daisy-Mae Upton at the Walsall Arboretum. Main picture: Jane Williams