It’s that time of year again - Harrogate’s festive season is officially under way, with thousands of visitors and residents expected to descend on our town’s famous Christmas market over the next four days.
The market opened at 10am today, Thursday, with more than 200 stalls snaking down Montpellier Hill to tempt shoppers with their mix of handcrafted wares and Yorkshire produce.
Last year saw visitor numbers swell to 75,000 across the four-day event - a 25 per cent increase on the previous year, and main organiser Brian Dunsby said he hopes to see an even greater footfall this time.
He said: “It has always been important for us to use this event to boost tourism at a quiet time of the year to benefit local shops, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
“However, it is still a very professional event – our traders often comment that it’s the best organised market they take part in.
“We’re proud to say that it is all down to the hard work of our team of volunteer Market Makers, plus a few professional sub-contractors looking after traders and visitors.”
Mr Dunsby said two-thirds of this year’s traders have been to the market before, with the remaining third made up of some exciting new stallholders who aim to bring something different to the shopping experience.
He said: “The positive feedback from last year’s traders made us think we would have high demand again this year, but it has once again exceeded all expectations. Two-thirds of this year’s traders have been before.
"This enables us to be very selective about our new traders, so we choose those who are based in or near Yorkshire, offering local produce and a variety of hand-made products not found on the high street. As well as giving traders an opportunity to reach a new audience, it makes the Harrogate Christmas Market a unique experience for our visitors. The food and drink marquee is now full of independent local producers.”
Market volunteers have identified the craft and gift marquee as a highlight to look out for this year, as well as the food and drink marquee with café-style tables and chairs for visitors.
The Harrogate Christmas Market Group Chairman, Steve Scarre, said: “People often forget that this isn’t a commercial operation – it is run by a team of volunteers who give up a lot of time to make the Christmas Market a success. As well as being a great event for Harrogate district’s many residents and visitors, Harrogate Christmas Market has altruistic purposes.
“It is run on a not-for-profit basis and any surplus is donated towards other local charitable organisations and events, which also attract visitors to Harrogate.”
Full opening hours for the Christmas market: Thursday and Friday, 10am to 7pm; Saturday, 9.30am to 8.30pm, and Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm.