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'If Frome wasn't on the map before it certainly is now'

By Somerset Standard  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

  • Emily, Tony and Lauren Widdowson

  • Harry, Lexi, Darcey and Tom

  • Jenson Button gives a speech before turning on the lights

  • Dylan Payne, Cameron Cox, Aaron Powis, Jacob Preston and Ross Pattender

  • Happy crowds prepare to welcome Jenson Button

  • Young F1 fan Henry Difuzio and Frome poet Muriel Lavender on stage

  • Braillie with grandfather Bruce Dartnall-Smith has a great view

  • Eagerly awaiting Jenson's arrival

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UP TO 9,000 people swarmed into Frome town centre for one of the biggest events in the town's recent history.

Frome Town Council had kept Jenson Button's secret Santa surprise under wraps until the 11th hour as men in fluorescent jackets talking hurriedly into radios converged on the Market Yard and Market Place to position barricades and overhead lights, remove speed humps and flatten manhole covers.

Originally the town council had been approached by Santander as being in the running for a festive visit from the Frome Flyer, Jenson Button.

Economic development and regeneration manager Peter Wheelhouse said the town had been competing against Milton Keynes.

"I think it was our enthusiasm to make it happen in Frome that clinched it and of course the fact that Jenson is a Frome lad.

"We knew there was going to be a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make this work and there were a lot of issues to resolve."

The decision was taken to reveal Jenson's race through the town in an F1 race car late in the day as the town council feared it would be inundated with fans from miles away.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "It was a question of crowd management. In the event the town was full and the Market Place itself was heaving with people but it was comfortable and more importantly safe."

Jenson's already legendary visit was free of charge with Santander footing the bulk of the costs incurred, according to Mr Wheelhouse.

He said: "What this demonstrates is the strength of feeling Jenson still has for his hometown. He took time to sign autographs and shake hands and it looked as if he genuinely loved doing it.

"And if Frome wasn't on the map before it certainly is now."

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