As Leyland lit up for Christmas, the father of bomb victim Saffie Roussos took to the stage to say an emotional thank you to the town for its support.
Eight-year-old Saffie was the youngest of the 22 people killed in the bombing of the Manchester Arena in May.
Her mother Lisa was also badly hurt in the attack.
On Saturday the town paid tribute to Saffie with a special star in pink – her favourite colour– in the Christmas lights.
Ahead of the switch-on by Coronation Street TV star Simon Gregson, who plays Steve McDonald, Saffie’s dad Andrew spoke publicly for the first time since the Manchester attack.
He thanked the people of Leyland for their “absolutely amazing love and support”.
“Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts, “ he said.
Close friend of the Roussos family Mike Swanson, of SOS Computing in Newsome Street, told the Guardian that while the country might have moved on, the Roussos’ grief was still fresh.
“They have moved away from Leyland,” he said. “It’s extremely hard, people chat to you daily about it, you can’t get away from it.
“They moved out of the area now for a new life, a new start, a new chapter, but they are all positive, strong and safe.
“This is a very private family, they are never going to talk about what happened, they are never going to talk about that day.
“At the moment it’s a case of it’s so fresh.”
The star lit up a Christmas tree in tribute to Saffie as part of the lights switch on. It had been specially designed by Richard Ryan, head of the world-famous Blackpool Illuminations.
Speaking ahead of the event, Mike spoke of how the family was managing, with Lisa still undergoing hospital treatment and Saffie’s brother Xander moving school.
“Lisa is doing fine, operations are still on-going but she is out of the worst,” he said. “I was walking up and down the beach with her the other day.
“It’s not brilliant but we are getting there.
“She’s still unwell, she’s got some work to do.
“It’s been a hell of a long six months, I think we are all knackered.
“Andrew is still a rock - even for me, he’s that kind of man.
“He’s brilliant, he’s done really well to get his family back in order. I think the whole family looks to him for strength.
“Xander’s settled into his new school already.”
At the switch on the pink star was unveiled a tree standing outside The Plaice fish shop, which the Roussos family used to own.
The Roussos had put the shop onto the market following Saffie’s death.
Mike said: “The chip shop’s been bought. It’s gone to a really nice couple that I think are going to do it proud.
“People call it Saffie’s Place around the area.”
Mike and his family will be spending Christmas with the Roussos’. “We are all going away,” he said.
Saffie was one of 22 people who were killed when Salman Abedi detonated a home-made bomb at Manchester Arena following an Ariana Grande on May 22.
A pre-inquest hearing on Friday into all the deaths was adjourned until June 15 next year.