Two popular Christmas parades have been axed as part of a major overhaul of festive entertainment in Scarborough in a bid to attract more shoppers to the town.
The much-loved reindeer procession and lights switch- on parade have been replaced by a month-long programme of events including a German Christmas Fair.
It comes after an analysis of footfall figures during the two parades revealed the events had been ineffective in boosting town centre trade.
Scarborough Council investment manager, Nick Taylor, who has responsibility for town centre activities, said traders and residents wanted to see something different.
He said: “We are just responding to what people have asked to see. They want to see a few different things going on.
“Although a lot of people enjoyed the reindeer parade an awful lot of people are fairly ambivalent about it. Consequently we thought let’s try and do something else, something more long-lasting as opposed to a quick parade of some reindeer going round. The reindeer parade costs a lot of money to do for something which lasts 45 minutes and the animated train is no longer available so we thought we would do something new.”
The festivities will kick off on Saturday with the arrival of Father Christmas, who will lead an extended parade through the town centre, before taking up residency in his Boyes grotto.
In a further shake-up new LED Christmas lights will be switched on next Friday at around 5.30pm, while the cast from the YMCA Christmas show performs in the town centre until 7pm.
Mr Taylor said: “We did it previously on a Sunday when the shops were all closed. This year they will all be open and there will be a party in full swing on the Friday night. I am hoping to stage live music in some of the cafes in town. There will be a massive buzz going on.”
This year will also see the introduction of “Christmas-Makers”, who will promote the town’s shops along with the events and activities taking place over the festive period.
The ‘greeters’ will be appointed by Scarborough Council following a £10,000 Government funding boost from the “Portas Pot”, set up by retail guru Mary Portas. From next Friday they will be stationed at main arrival points in the town on weekends and during busy periods in the run up to Christmas.
Mr Taylor said: “It’s too early to tell whether this new approach will be successful. It depends on the calibre of people who apply. I think those who have applied understand what we’re trying to do and it will be exciting to see how the community reacts .”
A Bavarian Christmas Fair will also launch in the town centre next Friday. Featuring stalls, music, fairground-style rides and other entertainment, it will be located in Newborough until Sunday, January 6.
On Sunday, November 25, the St Augustine’s School Orchestra will be showcasing its talent from noon until 4pm in the town centre, while every Saturday throughout December, the Salvation Army Band will be performing and every Sunday there will be a fairground organ in the main shopping precinct.
To celebrate the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Christmas production, children are being encouraged to find Cinderella’s glass slipper which has been hidden in a town centre shop. The shoe can then be swapped for a family ticket to the show, which starts a week on Tuesday and runs until December 15.
Between 5pm and 7pm on Thursday 6 and December 13, it’s the turn of Yorkshire Coast College’s choral singers to shine, as late night Christmas shopping gets into full swing.
Mr Taylor said: “Despite the incredibly difficult economic challenge faced by this local authority, it’s important we do our bit to support our retailers by creating the right festive atmosphere that encourages people to shop in Scarborough in the run-up to Christmas.
“We are actually spending more this year because we got the Portas funding and have had a busy year in town so we’ve got a little bit more of a budget.”
But Janet Jefferson, president of Scarborough Chamber of Trade and a town councillor, said she was disappointed the parades had been scrapped and raised concerns over the lights switch-on time slot.
She said: “I personally enjoyed the reindeer parade and the switch-on and so did the residents of Scarborough who used to line the route. I do think there will be some disappointment from residents, especially young people, but having said that as a town we are privileged to have a store like Boyes which continues to put on the arrival of Father Christmas and a parade through town.
“The switch-on is probably slightly late. It would have maybe been better at about 4pm as school children come into town, however it will be intermingled with the German market, which I’m excited about as it’s going to lift the street. The lights are also going to be quite spectacular this year. I think Nick is doing the best he can with the resources available.
“Time will tell if the ‘greeters’ are going to be successful. Proof will be if footfall increases.”
For years thousands of people gathered in Scarborough’s town centre to watch celebrities switch on the lights.
However six years ago the town dropped its celebrity switch on in favour of a lights parade following police claims the event might get out of control with lots of people injured.
In recent years the lights parade, which featured an illuminated train, has seen the Christmas Princess being dropped from the line-up, as well as the children’s Design a Light competition being axed.
Many Scarborough shops will stay open until 8pm on Thursday nights in the run up to Christmas in a joint bid to help boost sales and give shoppers the extra chance to stock up on presents. The Scarborough Chamber of Trade will also be encouraging retailers to decorate their windows and leave their lights on in a bid to make the main shopping areas more attractive.
Nick Taylor is appealing for regular street entertainers to get involved in the Christmas programme and also wants cafe owners interested in hosting acoustic music performances to contact him on 01723 232440.
Santa Claus is coming back to town - by boat!
The arrival of Father Christmas in Scarborough this weekend will signal the start of more than a month of festive entertainment in the town.
Santa will arrive at the West Pier slipway by boat at 11am on Saturday and will lead an extended parade through the town centre, taking in Eastborough, Newborough, Huntriss Row, St Nicholas Street, St Thomas Street, Castle Road and Queen Street, before he takes up residency in his grotto in Boyes store.