Thousands attend Harpenden Christmas lights
FIERCE winds scuppered plans for a farmers’ market alongside Harpenden Christmas Carnival, but the skies cleared to ensure the rest of the event went without a hitch.
The annual festive parade and lights switch-on is one of the highlights of the town calendar, and regularly attracts upwards of 10,000 visitors.
But this year the decision was taken not to hold one aspect of the event – the farmers’ market – because of the violent gales which were tearing through the High Street on Sunday morning.
One trader, who asked not to be named, said: “We are hugely disappointed to understand that the event went ahead even in light of the safety concerns for the public. How can it be that funfairs and stages were erected and yet market stalls were unable to be used? It really isn’t on that an event of this magnitude can be partially put on – we have lost out on a hugely popular day where thousands of people were in Harpenden and the loss of revenue is massive and the cost of stock and staff has compounded a significant loss.”
Town Clerk John Bagshaw explained why they took the regrettable decision not to hold the market: “Unfortunately at 7am when we started our initial assessment it was like a wind tunnel, and we were very concerned about the fact that the stalls would not stand up and when we made them up they’d blow away.
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“We were not ever going to have a window to put them up when the winds abated at 10am, and the decision was taken that it would not be safe to put them up once people started using the service road as lives could be put at risk. It was a very difficult call and we took no pleasure in it, especially as it’s always a bumper weekend for traders, and we will be reviewing how to manage a similar situation in the future.
“The funfair rides are a lot more solid than the market stalls, which is why they could be put up.”
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The carnival committee worked together to move fairground rides and despite having no stalls to display their wares, the charities were very resourceful and set up their own tables – or traded from the back of their car and many succeeded in taking the most money they ever had before.
Young Hearts, Grove Junior School Choir and St Dominic’s Catholic primary school sang their hearts out with a variety of Christmas tunes and Top Hat Stage School Glee choir, Evergreen band and the senior gang from Harpenden and Wheathampstead District Gang Show also provided entertainment before Heart FM took over the show. Boy band London Road from Essex thrilled the crowd, particularly three girls who waited for four hours just to see their idols.
The procession by Harpenden Village Rotary was led by an elegant open topped carriage featuring Blue Peter legend Peter Purves, Town Mayor Cllr Nicola Linacre, Deputy Town Mayor Rosemary Farmer and Natalie from Heart FM.
The finale was at 5pm when nine-year-old High Beeches pupil Zoe Birch, who won the town council’s competition to design the Mayor’s Christmas Card, switched on the Christmas lights with the Town Mayor and Dick Whittington panto characters.