SINGING schoolchildren joined thousands of flag-waving revellers as the Olympic Torch’s Cumbrian odyssey reached Ambleside.
Crowds began gathering from mid-afternoon as anticipation mounted ahead of the historic moment.
Greeted by cheers and applause, torch bearer Tom Wright, 15, of St Bees, passed the Olympic flame onto Windermere’s Stephanie Booth as it reached Borrans Park at around 6.20pm.
The beaming 14-year-old Lakes School pupil, nominated by her head teacher, told the Gazette it was the ‘best moment’ of her life.
“I was quite nervous but very excited,” she said.
“Everyone was really friendly and happy.
"It’s been the best experience.”
Sports-mad Stephanie is a keen swimmer and participant of triathlon and cross-country events and will compete alongside her sister in this weekend’s Great North Swim.
Her proud mother Christine said: “I didn’t sleep last night, I was so excited for her.
"I’m just really unbelieveably proud of her.
“The last week has been a little bit overwhelming.
"She was determined to be involved in the Olympics and this could be the closest she gets.”
Spectators Gordon Allatt and Norma Pearson made the trip from Northampton especially to see the torch.
And Mr Allatt was thrilled when he got to touch it.
“I’ll never wash this hand again,” said an emotional Mr Allatt.
“The Olympics is one of those things that brings the country together and makes us feel good.”
Mrs Pearson added: “I think it’s absolutely great and I shall be watching the Games every day while they're on.”
Children from Ambleside, Hawkshead, Langdale and Coniston primary schools performed a song especially-assembled for the occasion as the torch made its way to Waterhead to board the Bowness-bound vessel, the Tern.
It was helped on its way by a flotilla, christened Brathay’s ‘whalers’, as other boats sounded their horns in tribute.
Marj Waddecar, of Ambleside, who was looking on, said: “I was born in the year Britain last held the Olympics so I thought I ought to come down and see the torch this time.
“It’s good we have got the Olympics and let’s just hope there’s a bit of a spin-off for tourism in areas like this.”
Visitor Julianne Harlow, of Brighton, added: “It’s a really big event that we won’t be seeing in this country again and, rightly or wrongly, a lot of money has been invested in it.”
People were invited to write goodwill messages about the Games for inclusion in an eye-catching yellow ‘balloon tree’.
The Kendal Windows on Art project was led by Pam Williamson, who said: “I have worked with older people, schoolchildren and members of the public, asking them to send their messages to welcome the torch from Ambleside to London and the rest of the world.”
The balloons were given to children after the torch passed through and the messages will now go on display at Ambleside Library before featuring in a special opening ceremony at this year’s Ambleside Sports.
The Borrans Park festivities were organised in part by Barry Porter, of Rufty Tufty’s, Ambleside.
Mr Porter said: “I thought it would be a really positive thing for Ambleside - it really profiles the area.
“Anything that builds up Ambleside is great for local businesses and local people. The kids are really enjoying it.”
An Olympic Torch relay celebration, titled On the Night Shift, presented by Kendal Arts International, takes place on The Glebe, Bowness, tonight.
ZANY Steven Hall is urging people to vote for him after he performs in front of millions of TV viewers on Britain’s Got Talent tonight.
The 53-year-old telecommunications engineer will represent Cumbria when he takes to the stage for the live semi-final with a new dance routine.
Having taken the nation by storm with his eclectic two-minute act, which saw him perform a dance to The Birdy Song, The Macarena and The Twist, he has become an overnight success.
He has gained more than 1.5 million views on YouTube and more than a thousand fans on his official Facebook site.
So, what has he got lined up for the biggest performances of his life tonight?
“It was said: ‘How am I going to follow that?’ Because the element of surprise has gone,” he said.
“So I have taken what everybody said they would expect me to do next and not done it.”
Life has changed for the Burneside Amateur Theatrical Society member since he gained three ‘yes’ votes from Amanda Holden, Michael McIntyre and David Hasselhoff, and a standing ovation from the Liverpool crowd.
“It was the second best experience of my life, but I can’t tell you the first one,” he jokes.
“Since then, it has been so busy I haven’t had time to think about it.
"I have been to London several times for interviews and rehearsals.”
Having performed in theatres across the Lake District, Steven set up Comedy Showtime two years ago, a five-person act that puts on performances across the region.
From this, a 10-minute dance evolved which came to form the basis of his BGT audition.
If Steven is successful tonight, he will make it through to Saturday’s live final.
If victorious in the final, he will perform in front of The Queen at The Royal Variety Performance and win £100,000.
“I am nervous and confident about tonight,” he said.
“Nervous because Simon Cowell is back on the show and he is held in such anticipation about what he has thought of the acts that have gone through while he’s been away.
"But I am confident of my routine. I’m looking forward to it.”