WEARSIDE is warming up to become a Christmas wonderland.
Preparations are in full swing for the festive period across the region.
Hundreds flocked to Sunderland city centre on Saturday to see the Coca Cola truck – made famous by the global brand’s television adverts – roll into town.
Police were on hand to monitor the crowds in Park Lane as Wearsiders clamoured to get a free photo with the truck and a personalised Sunderland sign.
Sam Brown, event manager from the visit, said: “This is the eighth city we’ve visited on the tour and the crowds in Sunderland have been very keen.
“We’ve been getting a good response wherever we’ve been. Some people have even been queuing up two hours before we open. It’s like a celebrity has come to town.”
Visitors couldn’t go inside the truck, but when asked what it contained, Sam said it was “full of Christmas cheer”.
In Southwick, Mayor and Mayoress Bob and Juliana Heron switched on the annual lights.
And as part of its Christmas celebrations, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is preparing for the arrival of a giant animatronic polar bear. The Bjorn the Bear Experience gives the visitors the opportunity to meet a life-size and life-like polar bear up close and personal.
Bjorn, a fully animated puppet, will be making six exclusive appearances over two days with his keeper Ursula on December 20 and 21.
The polar bear proved a big draw to the museum last year.
Emma Scarr, creative development manager at Sunderland Live, who is event manager for the Christmas in Sunderland Programme, said: “Bjorn was a massive success last year so we had to have him back. This year we have added some extra-special activities and we are selling tickets fast, so we know it will be a magical experience for all the family.”
From December 14-20, light installation Lightweight will be in Mowbray Park and Santa’s reindeer will return to the park from December 20-23.