A proud celebration of Harrogate's twinning links

Team Harrogate: All smiles before the float sets off.
Team Harrogate: All smiles before the float sets off.

It’s not every day that you find yourself on top of a parade float escorting a huge dragon through France.

It sounds surreal, but a group of 20 Harrogate residents and civic figures did our town proud when they visited twin town Bagnères-de-Luchon in August.

They entered a float in the 119th Fete des Fleurs parade, and its design was truly inspired. The experience was a lot of fun for everyone taking part, but it was also an important and prestigious opportunity to represent Harrogate and continue to cement our international ties.

The Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate, Coun Bernard Bateman, and Mayoress Linda Bateman, joined members of the Harrogate International Partnerships Group and a group of students to savour the atmosphere of the trip.

An estimated crowd of 25,000 lined the streets to watch the parade, and cheer on Harrogate’s amazing St George-themed float. The delegation from Harrogate had just two days to decorate the float, and their hard work definitely paid off.

Olivia Sharpley, Rose Fraser and Angus Morgan were among those taking part. All former students from the St Aidan’s and St John Fisher Associated Sixth Form, Olivia, Rose and Angus said it was an invaluable opportunity to put their French into practice.

Olivia, who dressed up as a princess for the float, will soon head to Durham University to study French and Italian. She said: “The atmosphere was electric, so many people were lining the streets. It was just so bright and vibrant, and looked like something out of a movie.”

The Chair of the Harrogate International Partnerships group, Dennis Richards, said: “It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of international links for younger generations. Harrogate’s international links are, in my view, a huge asset to the town and the local community.”

Jan Gleaves, who came up with the design for the float, said: “There was an amazing carnival atmosphere. Our presence there is really appreciated, we had a lot of holidaymakers seeking us out, who were intrigued to find out more about Harrogate’s twinning relationships.”

Olivia said: “It feels like wherever you go in France, you find someone from Harrogate.” Angus said: “Everybody mucks in and comes together, it’s great to see the end product.”

The Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate, Coun Bernard Bateman, said: “It was an absolutely spectacular event, and the hospitality and welcome we received was wonderful. The Harrogate International Partnerships group did us proud.”

The group representing Harrogate enjoyed amazing support from businesses in town. Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate kindly donated bags of Yorkshire Tea to be thrown into the crowds from the float. And Farrah's kindly donated toffee.

Medical student David Fennimore was a perfect choice for the role of St George, and Olivia Sharpley did a great job of embracing her role as a princess and assistant for the parade.

The float was covered with thousands of flowers, and fitted in perfectly with the festival’s theme, which was myths and mythologies.

Angus Morgan, who helped to decorate the float, compared the festival’s atmosphere to when the Tour de France came to Harrogate. He said it’s an unforgettable experience.

Another great helper on the day, Rose Fraser, said: “It’s a really fun thing to do.”