DROVES of visitors turned up to support the launch of a highly-anticipated Cirencester festival on Saturday.

The town centre was packed with people craning to witness the unveiling of one mysterious hare model, designed by celebrity designer and Siddington resident Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

After months of planning, The Cirencester March Hare Festival has finally arrived and already colourful and decorative hare models are being spotted all across town.

“This is something that Cirencester has been calling out for,” said Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who unveiled his elegantly decorated hare, “Boudoir Bunny”.

“The festival celebrates the energy, creativity and difference of the town and is a real symbol of just how much higher Cirencester punches above its weight.”

Laurence’s hare model was unveiled to an eagerly waiting crowd on Saturday afternoon in front of the Parish Church.

A four-foot hare-shaped cake was then cut by Countess Bathurst in the Corn Hall, to continue the celebration.

The huge cake, created by Aggy Dadan and Andrew Pole of Cotswold Finest Cakes, was made with 180 eggs, 10 kilograms of sugar and 15 kilograms of cream.

Mayor of Cirencester Joe Harris, who attended to support the event, said the festival was a fantastic occasion for the town.

“This is a real draw to Cirencester and the centre is just packed today,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to look at all the hare models yet but my favourite so far is Harelequin hare, at Ingleside House.”

Festival organiser Florence Beetlestone said the launch was beautifully timed with the warm weather.

“Today has proved what an event this is going to be. People have been coming far and wide to see the hares,” she said.

The Cirencester March Hare Festival has seen businesses and organisations from across the region put their names behind the project by sponsoring a hare.

Funds raised through sponsorship and the sale of the hares at auction in October 2014 will help raise the target of £50,000 to enable the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to set up the Green Hare Churn Walkway around the River Churn in Cirencester.

The new wild walkways will be a natural sanctuary for people of all ages to use and enjoy.

There are currently 30 five-foot hares dotted around Cirencester and the surrounding area for people to discover, with more models to appear over the coming weeks. There is also a selection of smaller life-size ones to find.

The hares will be in town until September this year before going on auction in October.

Visit cirencesterharefestival.org.uk for more information.