RINGWOOD'S Christmas Parade, a community fixture since 1991, will not be going ahead this year.

Thousands of children have been left bitterly disappointed that there will be no procession, no reindeer and fewer festivities than this year than ever before.

The annual procession, which until last year had been organised by the Chamber of Commerce, was one of the highlights of the town’s social calendar and always attracted hundreds of families from near and far.

Last year businessman Jim Stride stepped in after Ringwood Chamber of Commerce announced that the event had fallen victim to the economic climate.

But civic leaders have confirmed that no one came forward to organise a procession this year.

Celebrations will be confined to a Santa hunt, plus a festive market with carol singing.

Ringwood mum Georgina Long said: “My children are devastated. They love the procession and look forward to it every year, it kick starts their Christmas.

“Someone should do something as the Christmas Parade makes Ringwood special.”

The Dowding family travel to Ringwood every year from Shaftesbury to watch the parade.

Kathryn Dowding said: “My children love the parade and will be disappointed that there is not one happening this year. The problem comes when an event falls on the shoulders of volunteers.

“It is usually the same faces that organise such events and sometimes even the most dedicated and community-minded run out of steam.”

Councillor Michael Thierry, a former mayor, said: “Christmas in Ringwood is going to be rather low-key this year.

“The town has had some really good parades over the years with everything from reindeer to camels. Last year Father Christmas arrived by helicopter, but this year nothing is happening at all.

“Jim Stride made it clear that he wouldn't be able to do anything for 2012 and hoped other folk would come forward, but no one did.

“I wouldn't say Christmas is cancelled but this year we've only got one cracker in the box instead of 12.

“There's a great deal of disappointment in the town. Something that was once a tradition has now died, causing a lot of regret. It's a great tragedy.”

The future of the event has been in doubt since the departure about two years ago of the long-time organiser, Belinda Charlton, who was manager of The Furlong shopping centre.

Cllr Thierry added: “Each year she did something to galvanise the town. The parade always ended up at The Furlong but the rest of Ringwood benefitted as well.

“It's something the chamber of commerce should get involved in. The town council don't see it as their function to stage something like this.”