Lighting up the town and thousands of faces overwhelmed with joy, this year’s big Christmas lights switch-on created magical memories to last a lifetime.
The whole event was filmed for a two-part documentary series on Channel 5 about Harrogate at Christmas. And when it airs next month, viewers from across the country will see that the pride and emotion shown on the night was nothing short of being authentic, genuine and truly sincere.
One woman unapologetically said that she couldn’t stop to talk about what she thought of the switch-on because she was too busy singing along to Christmas carols. Then followed the invitation to join in - and this feeling of being blissfully caught up in the Christmas spirit and forgetting everything else in that moment spread right across the crowds filling The Piazza outside the Victoria Shopping Centre.
For Jodie Hutchinson, the night was all the more special for it being her 18-month-old daughter Hattie’s first memory of a Christmas lights switch-on. Jodie said: “It’s lovely to be here with Hattie, it brings it all back to me from when I was a kid.”
The stage was a vibrant showcase of talented performers from across the district. Western Primary School’s choir did the town proud with their beautiful singing voices, and the brilliant Knaresborough Silver Band entertained us all.
Minutes after finishing their performance, Third Cornet in the Knaresborough Silver Band, Shirley Thompson said: “It was very exciting to be on stage. It’s nice to see all the different groups gathering together - this is the start of Christmas.”
Everywhere you looked cameras and phones were out as families and friends huddled together to get the perfect photo with the stage in the background and the lights later on.
Enjoying the build-up, friends Joanne Stamp and Indra Thompson asked their children what they were looking forward to the most. Indra’s daughter Demi said she was looking forward to seeing the Grinch take to the stage as part of a show by Harrogate children’s entertainers Little Rascals, and Joanne’s daughter Darcey couldn’t wait to see the town lit up.
It was truly heartwarming to see so many thinking of others and giving generously to support important local causes this Christmas. Darren Wise and Karl Miller from Harrogate firm CNG were collecting for St Peter’s Church to help them continue projects helping homeless people in the town.
Keeping everyone warm by giving out free hot chocolates was the team from The Fat Badger pub. Owner Chris Clarke (Clarkey), who wore a brightly coloured Christmas jacket especially for the occasion, said he was delighted to be out supporting the event.
There right from the start of the event, Fiona Finlayson, said: "The switch-on is absolutely fantastic. It's very festive, and there's something for everyone. People come from all over to watch it, it gives a real lift to Harrogate's economy."
Harrogate at Christmas chairman Coun John Fox thanked everyone who made the event a fantastic success.
Coun Fox said: "I am exhausted, but we had a fantastic switch-on with nearly 5,000 people coming to be entertained by the best of local talent and of course for the special visit from Father Christmas.
"The Channel 5 programmes will be a great boost to Harrogate. I just want to thank everyone who has worked extremely hard over the last twelve months."