The Harrogate BID column with John Fox

Mayor of Harrogate Cllr Bernard Bateman, Linda Bateman, John Fox and the Stray FM team at last year's switch on.
Mayor of Harrogate Cllr Bernard Bateman, Linda Bateman, John Fox and the Stray FM team at last year's switch on.

Did you know that bikes appeared on more letters to Santa between 1960 and 2000 than any other toy? The humble bicycle is the most popular retro Christmas gift of years gone by. Although after the UCI Road World Championships ends this Sunday (29 Sept), it could be more adults in lycra writing to Santa.

Christmas always comes early in retail. And so after the excitement of welcoming the world, we’re looking forward to the festive season and how the BID can support local businesses.

When it comes to shopping locally at Christmas, there’s nothing quite like the warm welcome of our Christmas lights.

Once more, I helped launch the annual fundraiser – now in its 11th year – with Stray FM to light up the town. The first £10,500 raised will be match funded by Harrogate Borough Council. It’s a vital time for our local traders, so pulling together to attract shoppers and visitors, makes a big impact.

Make a note in your diary that the ‘Big Switch On’ is on Thursday 14 November 2019, the entertainment starts at 4pm with the lights switch on at 6pm.

New for 2019, we’ll have the Harrogate Christmas Lantern Parade with more than 200 children and musicians on Thursday, December 5, but before that will be the Harrogate Christmas Market from 14-17 November, held on the Stray in the historic Montpellier Quarter. As ever, the focus will be on high quality products, with nearly 200 stalls, a Santa’s grotto and real reindeer.

To encourage visitors to stroll around our shopping quarters, the now famous Harrogate Christmas Shop Window competition is back. After its starring role on Channel 5 two years ago, on Harrogate: A Great Yorkshire Christmas, it’s a coveted chance to get creative and generate a buzz. BID Levy Payers can enter for free, and we encourage them to sign up before judging takes place on 28 November.

You don’t have to wait till Christmas for some indulgent treats. The BID is launching 10 Days of ‘Eat Out for A Tenner’ from 18-28 October. We’ve already got some great venues signed up including the Fat Badger, Mama Doreen’s Cupcake Company, The Old Swan Hotel and SCRAN. The aim is to encourage you to go and try somewhere new for a fixed menu fee of £10. Each venue will offer a bespoke £10 per person menu – it could be an Afternoon Tea, a lunchtime treat, pub grub or burger and a beer.

To entice you even more, The Harrogate Bus Company is offering free travel from the town centre as part of the campaign.

You can find details at dineoutharrogate.com. Venues can also sign up here to take part in the Eat Out for A Tenner campaign.

November will feature a Cocktail Month in town, with bespoke offers on cocktails and mocktails – the perfect accompaniment to a hard day of Christmas shopping.

For retailers, the Harrogate Gift Card will also be launched soon – another initiative to encourage people to shop local.

And don’t forget that the Autumn Voucher Booklet, brimming with more than 60 businesses offering discounts and deals, is available to pick up at the BID stand in the Victoria Shopping Centre.

All these initiatives, we hope, will entice you to the high streets.

Beautiful lights, local shops, fantastic food and drink – Harrogate puts the heart and the romance back into Christmas.

So, step away from that laptop and online shopping, take the time and pleasure of a stroll across town. And when it comes to retro gifts being on trend, remember the Harrogate Monopoly board is out soon!