As far as one small Somerset town is concerned, Jenson Button is the ultimate local boy made good – and yesterday it celebrated by greeting him in style and awarding him its highest civic honour.
The Formula One world champion paid what his McLaren team described as “his first official visit” to his home town of Frome in Somerset – after an absence of around a year – where he was welcomed by thousands of enthusiastic fans.
Dressed in a sober dark suit and white shirt, Button was presented with the Freedom of Frome by the town’s mayor Cllr Damon Hooton, after members of Frome Town Council voted to give him the award in recognition of his Formula One achievements.
He then returned the compliment by telling his supporters: “It really does still feel like coming home.”
He started his visit by returning to each of the three schools he attended there – Vallis First School, where he was guest of honour during assembly, Selwood Middle School, where he met former teachers and took questions from pupils, and Frome Community College where he spoke to students and teachers about the challenges he faced en route to the title.
He then took to a stage in the marketplace to greet what local media estimated was a crowd of around 2,500 to 3,000. He told them: “I’ve never forgotten my roots. I grew up here, and I still have many of my friends and family still living in and around the town – so it’s most certainly not a place that I’ve forgotten.
“For me, it’s very important to be able to share what I’ve been able to achieve with the town and its community. I’m proud to have come from here, and I’m proud to have been able to put it on the Formula 1 map.
“It was always something I wanted to do – to return to Frome to give my thanks to everyone for their ongoing love and support – but to receive the freedom of the town at the same time is just fantastic. It’s a real honour.”
He received his Freedom of Frome award in the form of a framed ceremonial scroll before answering questions and then signing autographs and chatting to lucky members of the crowd.
Pictures of the event from BBC Somerset here. You can also view an interview with Button here.
• And the Freedom of Frome is not the only civic honour Button is due to receive. The town is also working on plans to complete a new footbridge that it plans to name after Button.