IT MAY be the hand of Father Christmas himself, or perhaps the fairy dust sprinkled by Tinkerbell, but the mere mention of Uncle Jumbo’s Christmas Party instantly brought beaming smiles and sparkling eyes to the faces of generations of grown ups in Nelson Mandela Bay this week – leaving no doubt that this iconic annual event is indeed magical.
The news that Port Elizabeth Rotaract Club’s renowned charity event will begin celebrating its mammoth 50th anniversary at Featherbank Farm from tonight, induced a flood of fond memories across the Bay within just a few hours of its posting on a social network earlier this week.
In a solid testament to the popularity of the event, requests for information from past participants posted on The Herald and La Femme’s Facebook pages scored nearly 11 000 hits, also within hours, and the Weekend Post was subsequently inundated with e-mails packed with glowing reports and highly cherished memories.
In the business of creating unbridled joy and fun, Uncle Jumbo’s has consistently achieved its primary objectives each year since its inception in 1963. Alongside creating amazing memories for attending children and adults and doing the same for orphaned and disabled children on a special show night, the fabled events are Rotaract’s most important fundraising platform. Money raised is used to support a range of causes and charities throughout the following year.
Described as being similar in scale and atmosphere to a massive outdoor circus, the evening events are farmyard-style Christmas parties complete with tractor rides, the show itself, presents, food and sweets and of course Father Christmas and Tinkerbell.
Attracting around 500 adults and children at a time, a marching band, Noddy, with his genuine Noddy Car, Big Ears, Mr Plod and scores of clowns and elves are among the many attractions which have consistently made each show a roaring success. Tinkerbell, who traditionally heralds the arrival of Father Christmas – who mysteriously knows each child’s name – were among the most enduring memories of all who recalled the events this week. For the parents, the parties give them a chance to socialise comfortably perched on hay bales, with a glass or two, while the children are taken care of by Noddy and his crew.
As one mom said, “I can’t describe how much pleasure it gives me to see the kids having so much fun.”
Historically, the event has on occasion been staged behind the former Elizabeth Hotel, near the Port Elizabeth beachfront, but predominantly it has been at Featherbank Farm near Charlo.
Over the years, Rotaract, which is a sub-group of the Rotary movement, has drawn its many volunteer characters and other helpers for the huge organisational and physical undertaking from local high schools and tertiary education institutions, as well as from the Rotaract membership itself.
Speaking ahead of the 2013 edition of Uncle Jumbo’s, Rotaract Club president Caitlin Cumming said preparations were in full swing for the series of parties, which this year will feature a large new castle.
“It took about a year to construct and we are very proud of it.”
This is a version of an article that appeared in
the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, November 23, 2013.