Harrogate has that festive feeling again as the Christmas Market officially opens

Harrogate Christmas Market. Engine driver and organiser Brian Dunsby with The  Gambaru elves Jonathan Walker and Matthew Goodall , Steve Scarre (Christmas Market),members of The Harrogate Lions Eric Wright, Carol Houseman, Eve Nelson, Steve Caldwell and Stewart Reid.(1611153AM)

Harrogate Christmas Market. Engine driver and organiser Brian Dunsby with The Gambaru elves Jonathan Walker and Matthew Goodall , Steve Scarre (Christmas Market),members of The Harrogate Lions Eric Wright, Carol Houseman, Eve Nelson, Steve Caldwell and Stewart Reid.(1611153AM)

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year again in Harrogate as the Christmas Market opened this morning on Montpellier Hill.

More than 60,000 people attended last year’s event, and organisers hope for even more this year. And tonight is the official switch on of the town’s Christmas lights.

Mayor of Harrogate Nick Brown opening the market - picture by Patrick Kirk

Mayor of Harrogate Nick Brown opening the market - picture by Patrick Kirk

Harrogate Christmas Market is in its fifth year and was opened this morning by Santa, helped by two of his reindeers and his elves. Pupils from Oatlands Infant School then welcomed in the group after making their way down Montpellier Hill.

With around 200 stalls planned for this year, organiser Brian Dunsby is expecting the best market yet. He said: “It’s going to be a beautiful and even better quality market with an increasing focus on Yorkshire traders.”

The Big Lights Switch-On begins at the Victoria Centre at 4pm tonight with Father Christmas switching the lights on two hours later.

Special trains will put on by Virgin this weekend, carrying visitors from London King’s Cross to Harrogate will arrive on Saturday and Sunday with 125 coaches already booked in.

Harrogate Borough Council has now given its backing to the market by granting it a license to run up until 2019.

Mr Dunsby believes this backing will help the market be even more successful in future years and stressed the event was beneficial to visitors and businesses.

He said: “We are looking forward to a very successful fifth Christmas Market. The whole market is designed to bring people into Harrogate to support the local economy, the shops and the cafes.

“We have carpeted large areas of the Stray to make sure the grass is not damaged so we are confident you will not see the damage done that was at similar events.

“It’s taken us a long time to convince the council that it’s a good thing for Harrogate. We have got a license for the next three years so we can plan for the future and we can afford to invest in the market.”

As well as having around 200 stalls selling goods, food and drink, the market also boasts a children’s fun fair, a runaway train and a reindeer pen. Saturday is set to be the busiest time at the market with Thursday and Friday expected to be quieter.