Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Alton's Christmas skiing marmot decoration sparks row

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Media captionAlton's alpine marmot has had a divided response from residents and visitors

A giant ear-muff wearing marmot has sparked a mixed response in a Hampshire town after it was revealed as part of its Christmas display.

The 16ft-high (5m) rodent has been placed at the Assembly Rooms, Alton.

Some residents are baffled by the decoration, calling it a "hideous thing". Others have welcomed it as "something a bit different".

The town council said due to its "love it or hate it" reaction, staff had nicknamed it "Marmite".

It was chosen at a full council meeting from three designs - the other two were giant baubles and a polar bear.

"It was really about choosing something that would attract people to the High Street and bring a smile to people's faces, particularly the children," Alton Town Council said.

"The marmot was felt to be the most unusual and quirky."

Image copyright Alton Town Council
Image caption The skiing alpine marmot has a metal frame topped with tinsel and hundreds of LED lights

A post on the authority's Facebook page of the skiing alpine marmot - which has a metal frame topped with tinsel and hundreds of LED lights - has attracted dozens of comments.

One supporter, Jonathan Frater, said: "Don't remember a marmot being in the Christmas story. But I'm all for something different but relevant to the season."

Jan Wilkinson added: "I love it!! Shame that you can't please everyone."

However, others were not so keen, including Frances Bower who said: "A fancy skiing giant rodent. Did the three wise men ride these instead of camels?"

Sarah Jones added: "What is this hideous thing and what has it got to do with Christmas?"

Image copyright Alton Town Council
Image caption The display last year featured a Santa hat

It features alongside a traditionally decorated tree and Christmas lights in Market Square, as well as coloured column lights around the High Street.

The council said it hoped it would attract visitor "selfies" and added a competition was planned to officially name the marmot.

The town's festive decorations were funded by the authority's £20,000 "Yuletide" budget, along with support from local businesses.

Last year the town's display featured an illuminated Santa hat.

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