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Waterford city will get a sprinkling of Christmas magic as Winterval presents a brand-new interactive Wizards and Dragons exhibition for its 2019 festival. Featuring animatronic dragons, Winterval, Ireland’s largest Christmas festival, will be the first location in Ireland to host the Wizards + Dragons exhibition. Attracting over 500,000 visitors each year, the programme for Ireland’s Christmas Capital will also see Santa’s Grotto returning to the enchanting 750-year-old Choristers Hall and Undercroft, located at Waterford’s Medieval Museum.

The announcements come as the eighth annual Winterval festival launches its jam-packed programme of over 60 free and ticketed events, running from 23 November to 23 December. For more details see www.winterval.ie.

This year’s magical festival kicks off on 23 November at 4.15pm, with Santa and the Mayor of Waterford City & County Council Cllr. John Pratt turning on the city’s Christmas lights at 5pm. WLR will broadcast the event live with music provided by Brass & Co at John Roberts Square.

On the announcement of this year’s action-packed programme, Festival Director Tommie Ryan said: “Christmas is all about magic, and what is more magical than mythical creatures and some wonderful wizardry. Wizards + Dragons, running from 29 November to 5 January at Waterford City Hall, The Mall will give visitors of all ages the chance to immerse themselves in another world, building an awareness of mythology and culture, and harnessing the power of imagination.

“We are also delighted to see Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves return to Choristers Hall, for what will be another magical experience. We always want to ensure all children can enjoy a visit to Santa and so, have created a dedicated autism friendly and sensory evening on Thursday, 12 December. This will see the Grotto specially adapted to create a calm and relaxing environment, providing a stress-free evening for all guests.”

Further highlights include a never-before-seen free festive wonderland by Ireland’s renowned street theatre company, Spraoi. Spraoi na Nollag will be held during Winterval at Constitution Square. Further new events include a free Outdoor Cinema at The Applemarket, with The Polar Express on Saturdays and It’s A Wonderful Life on Sundays. There will also be a Star Flyer at the Tower Hotel for the first time.

Winterval On Ice, the 600sqm ice rink of real ice will be located at the new location of Bolton Street Car Park, while visitors can journey through the heart of Winterval on the Winterval Express Train and Horse Drawn Sleigh. The iconic big wheel, Waterford Eye, is at Merchants Quay and a brand-new 3D music and lights show for Winterval Illuminates takes place at Cathedral Square. There will also be Winterval Christmas Markets and pop-up shops at Arundel and Cathedral Squares, along with the Garter Lane Christmas Craft Fair at Garter Lane Arts Centre.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Winterval welcomes the Exploration Dome at Bolton Street Car Park, a fun and educational mobile planetarium with a brand-new show. Santa’s Giant Post Box is at The Applemarket, with special shows on Saturdays and Sundays during Winterval from Waterford Academy of Music & Art.

Favourite fairground rides return for 2019 with the Helter Skelter at Constitution Square, while the Vintage Ferris Wheel will be located at Arundel Square; the Golden Gallopers Antique Carousel at John Roberts Square, and for little visitors, the Mini Carousel at The Mall. A Circus Exhibition, full of miniature replicas of these Winterval favourite attractions, will be on display at George’s Court Shopping Centre.

For music lovers, Declan O’Rourke takes to the stage for a special evening at Theatre Royal, 23 December. The House of Waterford Crystal and Project Music presents Christmas Music Soirées with four jazz and classical concerts — jazz quartet Rough Edges (28 November); concert pianist, Peter Regan (5 December), soprano Valerie Leahy and pianist, Marian Ingoldsby (12 December) and soprano Orla Forristal (19 December).

Winterval 2019 also champions charitable events, with the Rotary Club Memorial Christmas Tree, in support of Waterford Hospice, at John Roberts Square. The Cartamundi Giving Tree at Georges Court Shopping Centre will donate a toy to St Vincent de Paul for every decoration made, while Christmas Busk Aid takes place in various locations across Waterford city, donating all proceeds to Tinteán Housing Association to help raise awareness of homelessness.

Tommie added: “Through the support of Waterford City & County Council, along with our sponsors, stakeholders, local businesses, volunteers, media partner, TodayFM, and the general public, Winterval is made possible. We invite everyone to come to Waterford city during the festival and experience a truly magical winter wonderland.”

For full details, visit www.winterval.ie or see:

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