A WREXHAM shopping centre will take on a thrilling carnival atmosphere when it becomes a small corner of Portugal early next month.

Members of the town’s thriving Portuguese community have chosen to start their big annual pre-Lent parade from Eagles Meadow on the afternoon of Saturday, February 6.

And the man in charge of organising the feel-good event says he hopes as many shoppers as possible will enjoy the spectacle and perhaps join revellers as they go on to wend their way out of the centre and around the town.

Jorge Szabo, who came over to live in Wrexham 14 years ago and now works in the restaurant business, is president of the Association of Portuguese Culture in Great Britain whose members are masterminding the carnival.

He said: “There’s quite a large ex-pat Portuguese community in Wrexham and we are holding the carnival to show people something of our rich culture and help promote international understanding.

“Back in Portgual it’s traditional to stage a carnival in early February each year to celebrate before the start of Lent and for festivities to last for a few days.

“These events are very colourful and feature lots of masks and large paper heads, which is exactly what we’ll have in Wrexham.

“We staged our carnival for the first time in the area last year but the parade went just around the town centre.

“Through the Town Centre Forum I met Kevin Critchley, centre manager of Eagles Meadow, and he invited us to start the parade from the shopping centre which we are delighted to do because it is an important part of Wrexham and attracts so many people.

“It will definitely enable us to show off our cultural pride to a larger number of people.

“This year the event should be bigger and better than ever. We are expecting about 70 people to take part from Wrexham and the surrounding area and we will be led by the Cambria Marching Band who will play lots of rousing music.

“After starting in Eagles Meadow at 2.30pm the parade will make its way along York Street, Chester Street, between the two markets and Queen Square to the town centre where we’ll finish at our association’s office in Regent Street.”

After the parade, from around 4pm, there will be a party at the office to which Jorge said everyone is cordially invited rounding off the day in style is a masked ball – where many of the masks used during the parade will be worn – at Maesgwyn Community Centre on Mold Road, starting at 8pm and including a buffet for an entry charge of £7.50.

Jorge added: “The celebrations continue on Sunday with a masquerade in Belle Vue Park starting at about 2pm with music from the bandstand.

“On the Monday and Tuesday we will be having more masquerades around the town centre displaying the masks and large paper heads that members of our community have been making since last November with the help of local artist Dawn Mcquire at our association office.

“In Portugal the days after the carnival weekend are holidays but here I know that people have to go to work. But we would still love those who can make it to come out into the town centre and see us with our masks.

“When the parade starts off from Eagles Meadow and throughout the four days of the carnival we’re hoping that as many people as possible will join us in celebrating our rich heritage.

“Ours is not a closed association and we’re all about integration with the Wrexham community which is close to the hearts of our members.”

Eagles Meadow centre manager Kevin Critchley said: “The shopping centre is delighted to be playing host to the big carnival parade which is sure to add a brilliant dash of colour and a touch of magic to the day of everyone who sees it.

“Jorge and the association are doing a fantastic job in showcasing the best in Portuguese culture and heritage to as wide an audience as possible.”