by Alison Houston
SEVENTY-EIGHT-year-old David Gwynne is among 47 entertainers taking to the stage and roaming the grounds to entertain guests at this year's 15th Toowoomba Christmas Wonderland.
This is David's fifth year playing his piano accordion as a roaming minstrel.
You'll often see him at the main gates playing We Wish You a Merry Christmas to welcome guests, then playing carols in different areas throughout the night, where, with a little encouragement, he'll get you to join in the singing.
"A lot of small children were fascinated by the piano accordion and, if the parents were agreeable, I would sing them Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," David said of last year's event.
"It gave me a warm heart to see their reactions."
David said it was particularly rewarding to play to kids with disabilities, and clearly remembers one little girl last year who came back to see the lights and hear the music for a second night.
"I was very moved that second night being able to provide joy to someone who had so little," David said.
"She grabbed me and didn't want to let go ... they're the sort of incidents you never forget."
But it's not just the kids David plays up to, sometimes swapping his Christmas songs to favourites "an oldie" can sing along to like When Irish Eyes are Smiling.
This year, he's hoping to be joined after December 15 by his brother Robert, 80, a former professional musician, on violin.
David has been playing piano accordion since he was 15.
"It's been part of me for my life," he said, recalling singalongs at night in his jackarooing days out west.
He still plays occasionally, including during the Carnival of Flowers, and loves a singalong, but said the joy of Christmas Wonderland was "giving pleasure to someone ... that's my reward, that other people enjoy it".
Christmas Wonderland project committee chair Marshall Cox acknowledged entertainment was very much a part of the Wonderland atmosphere, with everything from dancing groups to costumed mascots, bands, choirs and vocal soloists and groups.
"While the lights are spectacular, we know guests thoroughly enjoy the additional entertainment provided at the event," he said.
Over 90,000 people are expected to attend this year.
Entry is by gold coin donation, with funds raised distributed in the main to Toowoomba Hospital Foundation, Toowoomba Hospice and Lifeline Darling Downs and South West, which last year shared $96,000, with over $5000 donated to other community groups.
Christmas Wonderland continues at Queens Park from 7pm to 10pm until Christmas Eve.