As expected, the eighth Harrogate Christmas Market was another roaring success! This distinctive, four-day event is diminutive compared to most Christmas markets, yet manages to attract repeat visitors from across the UK. It’s estimated that between 14th to 17th November, 80,000 people came to our town and to Montpellier Stray to enjoy the event. But why do people favour Harrogate’s market over the other established markets in Leeds, Manchester, and further afield?
By ‘eck, it’s NOT Continental!
The proliferation of French and German Christmas markets around the UK may be entertaining for some, but they do little for local traders. The Harrogate Christmas Market was designed to have a Yorkshire flavour to support local businesses and UK-made products. You might see a limited selection of imported products, such as those sold by Black Yak, but they must be Fair Trade. Another thing you won’t find at this Yorkshire market is a beer tent, as the organisers didn’t want to take trade away from the nearby pubs and bars. Many local businesses report bumper trading over the four days of the market.
Expertly curated stalls
The event receives many more applications than its 200 stalls, so it would be easy for the organisers to adopt a ‘first come, first served’ policy to fill the spaces quickly. The Harrogate Christmas Market organisers take a different view; traders must meet very strict criteria. They also aim to keep repetition to an acceptable level and to have an optimally balanced selection of gifts, food, and drink. While most businesses wish to come back every year, a percentage of stalls are for new traders to ensure the event never becomes stale. This year, approximately 25% of stallholders were new to the market. You can read more about some of our past and present traders in our blog.
Visitors went home with a range of locally produced and unique gifts including handmade soaps, childrenswear, hand-thrown ceramic mugs adorned with mice, and even lamps made from copper pipe, to name just a few.
Location, location, location
Harrogate is home to The Stray: 200 acres of open grass parkland that’s owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and protected by an Act of Parliament. The Christmas Market is situated on an area of The Stray next to the Montpellier Quarter, which is transformed into a beautiful wonderland during the four-day event, with twinkling lights in the trees and throughout the market. This exact location is ideal for two reasons. Firstly, there are suitable roads and wide tarmac pathways that can be utilised for both stalls and visitors, minimising damage to the grass. But the organisers go further to protect Harrogate’s precious asset; the ground is hollow spiked, then filled with sand to aid drainage. Specialist matting is laid underneath and in front of stalls and on other areas where the grass is vulnerable. It rained quite heavily at times during the market this year, yet despite the weather, only very minor damage occurred to the grass. Volunteers were on hand to tackle any localised areas of flooding by pumping and sweeping it into nearby drains. In fact, the only issue as a result of the market was half a dozen paving stones becoming dislodged, and this will be rectified at the organiser’s expense next week. Secondly, the site is ideal because of the proximity to the town’s retail and hospitality businesses. The majority of visitors spend half their time at the market, then go off to see what else Harrogate has to offer, including the festive shop window displays. This is why the event receives so much support from the town’s businesses.
Is it a bird; it is a plane?
No, it’s a Market Maker! It’s believed that Harrogate Christmas Market is the only event of its type to have volunteer helpers roaming the site offering help to both stallholders and visitors. They stand in for sole traders, thus allowing them to take comfort breaks. They hand out visitor leaflets, give directions, and even fetch refreshments for stallholders, when they have too many customers to leave the stand. Market Makers are the events true superheroes!
Truly family friendly
From Father Christmas’s grotto to the small fun fair, Harrogate Christmas Market is perfect for children. The reasonably priced rides are a welcome treat for little ones who’ve patiently waited while their adults shopped! But it’s not just toddlers who can enjoy the fun fair; the Runaway Train ride gives just the right amount of thrills for older children. And of course, if they get peckish, there are plenty of hot food and sweet stalls to satisfy any appetite!
Ding Dong Merrily on High
Your typical Christmas market has piped music, and while Harrogate Christmas Market is no exception, it also has a full programme of live performances from ‘buskers’. Yuletide music never sounded so good as heard from local choirs, singer-songwriters, and a ukulele band. This year, the brilliant North Tyneside Steelband got everyone’s feet moving with All I Want for Christmas. The various seasonal tunes keep visitors and stallholders alike in the festive spirit!
It’s all for the love of their town
The organisers saw that November was typically a quiet month for Harrogate businesses, as visitor numbers were low. They created the free Christmas Market to increase footfall for the retail, service, and hospitality sectors. Many visitors return every year, with increasing numbers choosing to come for a short break, so they can really enjoy everything Harrogate has to offer. Harrogate Christmas Market Limited is a not-for-profit organisation, and any surplus after costs is donated to local charities and community groups, such as Destination Harrogate, G&S Festival, Harrogate International Festival, Rotary Club, Volunteer Oscars and, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, etc.
A group of dedicated volunteers helps to plan and run the event alongside the organisers led by Brian Dunsby OBE, former Chief Executive of the Harrogate Chamber, and supported by his wife Beryl Dunsby, Steve Scarre, the current President of Harrogate Chamber, and Sue Scarre.
If you want to visit a charming Christmas market that is all about the true meaning of this holiday, Harrogate is the one to see. Assuming a licence is granted from Harrogate Borough Council, the ninth Harrogate Christmas Market will run from 12th to 15th November 2020. Leave your humbug at home!