Christmas fair success stories

Get inspired for your own event with these Christmas success stories

‘Our Winter Wonderland was the highlight of their year’

As Christmas music played, the children caught sight of our Winter Wonderland. Complete with a snow machine, real reindeer and a runaway train ride, it left no doubt that Christmas had arrived.

After the overwhelming success of our first Winter Wonderland the year before, we’d decided to do it again. It had been another difficult year, and we all needed a treat.

A big event like this is a considerable commitment, and we estimated it would cost around £7,000. With some lucrative fundraising events under our belts, we were prepared to splash out, but we also approached local businesses for sponsorship and charged £5 admission to help cover costs.

We raised enough in sponsorship to pay for a runaway train ride from Leicestershire-based company Funfair Hires. We work hard to build good relationships with the owners of local companies and always send personal thank you cards to everyone who helps us.

Each year group was allocated a time slot to visit Winter Wonderland. Pupils could try out all the rides, play in the snow, have their photo taken in Santa’s grotto and enjoy hot chocolate and a snack. 

We also organised visits to the reindeers and Santa delivered presents to each classroom.

We couldn’t have run it without the parents stepping up to help. One acted as our photographer, another organised Santa’s grotto and many signed up for a volunteer slot on the day. I organised the rota so that parents could watch their own children enjoy the event and rewarded volunteers with free coffee and cake. Gestures like this encouraged more people to help. Realising how much work we had put in, many parents expressed their thanks on Facebook.

The Winter Wonderland event has made us rethink our approach to fundraising. Because every child had the same experience, it felt like our most inclusive event to date. But it wasn’t until the teachers shared some of the children’s work with me that it hit home how worthwhile it had been. Writing about the highlights of their year, many children mentioned our Winter Wonderland. Realising what special memories we had created for them warmed my heart no end.

  • Danielle Gautrey, chair of Friends of Nicholas Hawksmoor School, Towcester, Northamptonshire (430 pupils)

See the photos of this event in the autumn 2022 issue of PTA+ magazine.

‘Our Winter Wonderland showed the PTFA was back with a bang’

The children gasped as they entered the school hall. They expected an empty room but found a space filled with fun, festive activities, adorned with 20 sparkling Christmas trees and resplendent with decorations. Teaching assistants and PTFA helpers dressed as elves were on hand to show them around. They had no idea we’d planned everything in just three weeks.

Our PTFA had lapsed completely during the pandemic and we began its relaunch in October. My wife suggested I present a report at the first meeting; I ended up becoming chair. The Winter Wonderland event was already in the diary, but we hadn’t made any preparations whatsoever. So we created a WhatsApp and Facebook group and scheduled a planning meeting for early November.

I’m in the military, and in our circuit training, we refer to the different training positions as ‘stances’. I used this concept as my vision for our Winter Wonderland. Children would start at the first stance and continue until they had completed them all. We decided to hold a session in the morning specifically for SEN children, and get the other year groups to participate throughout the day. The PTA got busy hiring and making activities and our eventual seven stances were:

  • Inflatable bouncy snow globe: We hired it from an external provider and it came complete with cotton snowballs.
  • Rocking reindeer rodeo: Long queues formed because only one child could participate at a time, but it was a big hit with the older years.
  • (S)elfie station: We created winter scene backdrops and encouraged pupils to take creative selfies.
  • Santa’s grotto: The PTFA secretary’s father-in-law volunteered to be Santa. Our new treasurer is an Usborne books rep and arranged a deal so that each child received a book from Santa.
  • Pin the nose on the reindeer: We stuck big reindeer posters onto magnetic whiteboards and used red magnets for the nose.
  • Name the elf: Pupils coloured in pictures of elves and the PTFA presented prizes for the best one to KS1 and KS2.
  • Hot chocolate and marshmallows: The final stance was in the classrooms at the end of the day.

There was no time to promote the Winter Wonderland, so we used the lack of publicity to our advantage and made it a surprise for all the children. We got a fantastic reaction. Every child left with reindeer food, snowman poop, reindeer poop and their book.

Our head teacher was incredibly supportive. She even changed the time of her staff meeting so the teachers could help clear up because it was time for the children to go home.

The Winter Wonderland was more about introducing the PTFA and lifting our spirits than making money. We had some income from voluntary donations and a small raffle but overall, the event made a loss after taking into account expenses such as activity hire and buying the elf pyjamas and decorations. Our PTFA shed was bare so we also needed to stock up on necessities such as tea and coffee.

This year, the PTFA has gone from strength to strength. Our core team works well together and has been busy building our reputation. Since holding our Easter egg treasure hunt, we’ve started to get much more buy-in from the parents. Our rainbow raffle was also a huge success, and this summer we held a colour run as well as a summer fair. The PTFA really is back for good!

  • George Mee, chair, Friends of Rosemellin PTFA, Camborne, Cornwall (405 pupils)

See the photos of this event in the autumn 2023 issue of PTA+ magazine.

‘The children had a ball at Santa’s penalty shootout’

Coach Jack, our school sports coach, was almost entirely unrecognisable in his inflatable costume. As our PTA volunteers herded the children into a queue, they craned their necks to see Santa in goal. ‘Ho ho ho!’ bellowed Coach Jack as he saved the first of more than 500 goals. The children jumped up and down, eager for their turns.

Our Christmas fair was smaller than usual. Instead of focusing on profit, the aim was to create a joyful, festive and social atmosphere. From the happy babble of chatter audible throughout the event, it seemed as if we had been successful – the school community was well overdue a catch-up.

As the smell of warm mince pies wafted through the crowd, parents gravitated towards the food stalls, keen to purchase a sweet festive snack and drink. Others sampled the hot dog stand, ensuring the volunteers were kept busy all afternoon.

Coach Jack wasn’t the only person in costume. I donned a Christmas tree outfit and became the Giving Tree, helping distribute children’s gifts to parents in difficult financial circumstances. In the weeks leading up to the fair, we advertised the initiative in the school newsletter. During the fair, any parent in need could visit the Giving Tree and receive a free present for their child to open on Christmas day. We’d received various gifts as donations, and I took delight in distributing them to anyone who paid me a visit. I also handed out vouchers entitling parents to a free hot dog, drink or mince pie. I enjoyed life as the Giving Tree and feel confident the scheme will return again this year.

Not many fairs can boast two Santas. But as well as having one in goal, we had another in Santa’s grotto, which we ran as a pre-paid event. It was fantastic to see the children’s smiling faces as they left clutching a new toy.

From behind his fake beard, Coach Jack was getting increasingly sweaty. He’d been saving goals continually for nearly three hours. But his efforts were rewarded – he singlehandedly raised £180. Altogether, we made £2,000 from our scaled-down fair, which we were delighted with.

Without putting pressure on ourselves, we created a wonderful event that showed the school community at its best. As a new school, we have ambitious plans for this money with several long-term projects in the pipeline. We intend to develop an outdoor learning space, a library and a rooftop garden, and our fair brought us a step closer to achieving these goals.

  • Marianne Westergaard, co-chair of Whitehall Park School PTCA, Islington, London (400 pupils)

See the photos of this event in the autumn 2022 issue of PTA+ magazine.

‘Our Grinchmas fair was a festive hit’

‘It’s because I’m green, isn’t it?’ growled Ben, aka the Grinch, at the tentative child hovering by the entrance to our Grinchmas grotto. She giggled and, encouraged by her family, plucked up the courage to head over to the figure in the green suit – helped perhaps by the big bag of presents at his big hairy feet.

We’d floated the idea of a Grinchmas fair via a Facebook poll and received an overwhelmingly positive response. We knew we wanted to do a fun Christmas fundraiser but were looking for something out of the ordinary to generate new interest. As soon as we sketched out the basic plan, the Whoville ideas came thick and fast!

One of our brilliant dads, Ben Hughes, volunteered to be the Grinch in the grotto and went off to source his own costume on the internet. At his feet would be his son, George, as Max the dog, complete with reindeer antlers on a fluffy dog costume. One of our regular team, Anna, agreed to be Cindy Lou, complete with fabulous hair!

Six of us set about organising the rest of the activities: We found some little green elves and adapted them for a ‘Hook the Grinch’ stand, gathered garbage for a ‘Throw the Rubbish into the Grinches’ home’ game and advertised a Grinch-themed (largely green!) cake competition. We arranged for a projector to show the cartoon version of The Grinch in one of the classrooms.

We put our artistic talents to work, creating life-size cutouts of Cindy Lou, Max and, of course, the Grinch himself. Visitors could put their hands and faces through the holes and have their photograph taken. With a new coat of paint, we hope to use them again for future fairs on different themes.

To market the fair, we used Facebook, the School Gateway platform and our WhatsApp groups so people could book their grotto slots in advance.

On the day of the Grinchmas fair, it snowed heavily. That sounds like a bonus but quite a few children didn’t make it to school at all. Some families headed straight home and sadly the numbers attending were down on what we’d hoped for.

After costs, we raised around £400. It wasn’t our most profitable fundraiser but certainly one of the most fun – both to plan and attend! For those who made it, there was a lively, happy atmosphere, with lots of laughs.

  • Judy Rossiter, head chair of the Friends of Horizon Primary Academy, Swanley, Kent (220 pupils)

See the photos of this event in the autumn 2023 issue of PTA+ magazine.

‘Christmas was the season of giving (and asking)’

At the tombola stall, 175 teddies stood in a row, each one ready to meet its new owner. The teddy tombola has always been a highlight of our Christmas fair. Parents donate these cuddly characters then we give them a bath and fasten a luggage tag, Paddington-style, around their necks. Usually, there are only a few lucky winners, but we’d decided that this year’s tombola would be held in the spirit of giving. One turn cost 50p and every player was guaranteed a cuddly teddy to take home.

The Friends decided that none of the children’s stalls would turn a profit this year. Instead, our income would come from parents purchasing food and drinks from the bar. When pupils spent money, they would always receive a prize.

This generosity stemmed partly from genuine gratitude that the fair could go ahead. The lead-up to the event had been a roller coaster ride. With only three weeks to go, the headteacher approached me and asked that we hold the fair outdoors because of the pandemic. As I nodded and smiled, I thought to myself, how are we ever going to pull this off?

We asked for help from the local community. The headteacher initially thought our plan to seek sponsorship for a carousel was rather ambitious, but when a local company agreed to sponsor the ride, she was impressed. We sought a bar sponsor, then a raffle sponsor and a grotto sponsor, as we discovered that local firms were happy to support their community. Overall, we received over £2,000 in sponsorship.

We also asked the parents. Our fair was due to take place on a dark November evening, and the biggest challenge was lighting. But we found out that one parent was a lighting and sound engineer, and he agreed to provide 200m of festoon lights.

When we saw the joyful faces of the children at the teddy tombola, we knew the fair had been a success. We counted the takings and discovered we’d raised almost £5,000 – one of our most lucrative fairs ever. 

To celebrate, we asked the teachers to send us their wish lists. They asked for items such as wet play activities, including board games, which we were happy to provide. We also invested in new tablets and accompanying tech trolley, which doubled the number of devices available to children. While it’s hard to raise funds for a small school, the upside is that the money makes a greater difference to each child.

  • Rosie Bucknell, chair of Friends of Blackmore School, Blackmore, Ingatestone, Essex (175 pupils)

See the photos of this event in the autumn 2022 issue of PTA+ magazine.

‘We kept the costs down to help everyone feel included’

Watching the excited faces of the children pouring through the gates of our DIY Christmas fair last year, we knew we’d done the right thing – despite wondering if we were mad when we first raised the idea!

It wasn’t without controversy: no entrance fee, free face painting and nail decorating, and simple food where the charge would only cover costs – not the best business plan for a fundraiser. But we were aware that, in our little village primary school, people were really feeling the pinch of soaring living costs and that Christmas would be a time of stress for many parents. The main aim was for everyone to feel included and to make sure no one felt pressured to spend money they didn’t have.

So instead of splashing out on event costs and professional help, we DIYed it. We made the prep fun and kept it down to one day, encouraging volunteers to join in and holding the fair after school the same day. We had thought that doing everything ourselves might be more work, but in fact, it was just ‘different’ work.

We divided up the school rooms; one classroom housed face painting and nail decorating, and another hosted the disco: we brought in fairy lights and disco balls from home, created a gorgeous grotto and put together a playlist instead of using our usual DJ. We sourced some amazing raffle prizes from local businesses. In the covered outdoor area, we created a Christmas market where people could gather for food, hot chocolate and mulled wine.

One parent generously made cookies for us to sell. Another arranged a wreath-making workshop the week before and created a huge garland for our entrance gate from the leftover foliage, which was auctioned off at the end.

The PTFA launched a second-hand uniform stall at the fair. The parent who ran it now collects, washes, irons and sells pre-loved uniform, meaning parents get almost new clothes cheaply and the PTFA makes some profit.

We placed a discreet donation bucket on the door for those who felt able to donate – and happily, those who could did.

The true miracle was that we made almost as much money as previous fairs. The children loved it as much as usual and there was far less pressure on the families. We’ll definitely be doing it this way again this year – why wouldn’t we?

  • Leila Leach, vice president of West Wittering Parochial CE Primary School, West Sussex (96 pupils)

See the photos of this event in the autumn 2023 issue of PTA+ magazine.