The sixth Harrogate Christmas Market was undoubtedly the most successful so far. From the estimated 75,000 visitors (up 25% from 2016), to the wonderful selection of stalls, this year has proved that our not-for-profit Christmas market with a Yorkshire flavour has a very wide appeal.
Great excitement surrounded the opening on Thursday, 16th November, as Father Christmas arrived on his sleigh pulled by two reindeer, accompanied by the Mayor of Harrogate, Cllr Anne Jones, who officially opened the market. The Mayor then toured the entire market to speak to traders, and even posed for selfies with visitors.
And the winner is…
This year introduced awards for the best stalls, which were judged according to displays, service and products. Gold and silver certificates were pinned on winning stalls, while others received a Highly Commended mention. Traders reacted favourably to the competition, displaying their certificates proudly and announcing it on social media.
An excellent programme of live music, organised by Marian Farrar, had something for all tastes, including Harrogate Spa Town Ukes, the Harrogate Theatre Choir, and a lively set by the North Tyneside Steel Band (that had one group of ladies doing the conga). There was also recorded Christmas music to help get folks into the Christmas spirit.
She said yes!
While we’re talking live music, something extraordinarily special occurred at HCM this year – we had our first proposal! Paul Finch got down on one knee to propose to the love of his life, Helen Storey, in front of the busking area. He had arranged with singer songwriter Den Miller to rewrite the words to Walk the Moon’s Shut Up and Dance with Me, which Den performed as Shut Up and Marry Me, accompanied by violinist Sophie Hawkes. Great applause and cheers exploded when Helen said yes, after which the Harrogate Christmas Market organisers presented the couple with a congratulatory bottle of Mason’s gin, which is made using Harrogate spring water.
As ever, the volunteers who donned high-vis jackets and ‘here to help’ sashes to do four-hour stints as Market Makers were the real superheroes of our event. They continuously roamed the market to ensure traders and visitors were okay. They watched stalls as traders nipped out for a comfort break, and even fetched refreshments when asked. A special mention goes out to Jan and Alan Toothill, who diligently kept the traffic flowing on Montpellier Hill over the four days. Many volunteers pulled 12-hour standing shifts, which was just amazing.
Most traders love to return to our market, so this year saw plenty of old favourites, along with quite a few new gift stalls. Visitors were buying everything from handmade children’s clothing, to beautifully carved wooden helicopters. You really could tick off your entire Christmas list at HCM17.
The food traders this year tried harder than ever to accommodate visitors who had specific dietary requirements, including offering vegan pizzas (Pizza Loco) and gluten-free brownies (Brown and Blond). As we know people appreciate somewhere to sit down, there were tables and chairs inside the Food and Drink marquee, plus this year benches were added outside the marquee as well.
One thing the volunteers on the HCM committee take seriously is feedback. Genuine constructive criticism is always addressed at committee meetings. Overcrowding is sometimes raised, so this year most of the stalls were pushed back by a metre. We do advise people to avoid the weekends if they don’t like crowds, although we know that’s not always possible. Space is limited due to the incline, so spreading out isn’t an option (and even if we could, it doesn’t seem to alleviate the problem, if the negative comments about Bath’s Christmas Market are anything to go by). It’s also not possible for us to move to the Valley Gardens or West Park Stray, nor is it possible for the market to be dotted around the town centre. An independent consultant was hired to ascertain if there was another viable site in Harrogate, and the answer was no. There are so many logistics involved, no other site could cope. And moving to the Great Yorkshire Show site defeats the purpose of why this market was created in the first place – to bring trade to Harrogate businesses. But the committee will never stop looking at ways the market can be improved; regular visitors and traders have remarked on how the market has positively evolved each year. Our band of community-minded volunteers want the Harrogate Christmas Market to be the best it can be, and we hope it will continue to play its part in helping this wonderful Yorkshire town to thrive.
The organisers would like to thank all the visitors, traders, residents, emergency services, sub-contractors, buskers and Harrogate businesses for their support. They’d also like to send out the biggest high-five to their truly awesome team of volunteers, without whom the Harrogate Christmas Market wouldn’t happen.