Whilst national media bemoans the impact of last weekend’s poor weather on high street visitors, Horsham’s two day Piazza Italia event and Saturday Easter markets are celebrating having created the town’s busiest weekend of the year so far.
Horsham District Council, along with over 70 partners, delivered yet another extraordinary town centre spectacle, driven by the determined support of well over 200 car and bike owners who collectively braved the elements to showcase their vehicles. Over 80,000 visitors across both days of the festival witnessed some fantastic car and bike displays across the town and shared in the fun provided by numerous entertainments, activities and themed food and drink stalls.
Saturday’s expanded Easter markets and Messy Easter activities by Horsham Churches Together in Swan Walk helped to make this the busiest shopping day of all, justifying the decision to focus the Piazza event over two days so as not to put off regular town centre customers.
Local food and drink businesses did a roaring trade throughout the event days with one Swan Walk retailer, who actively used the event to drive sales, reporting a 60% uplift in turnover on the previous Good Friday. Imaginative use of Council facilities at Parkside provided a broad range of indoor and outdoor driving fun and welcome weather respite for parents.
Although weather did impact on the Italian bikes return to the event there were some fabulous models on show including a super rare Ducati 1299 Panigale R with just 1 mile on the clock. Supercar enthusiasts were spoilt on either day with highlights which included HR Owen led 27 car Lamborghini display on Good Friday and the event’s first ever La Ferrari (1 of only 500 built) as part of the Premier GT Race Paddock and Carfax Supercar display on Easter Monday. Classic car lovers were treated to rare open top sports models from Maserati (Good Friday) and Alfa Romeo and FIAT (Easter Monday) supported by a host of FIAT 500s, Minis, Abarths and McLarens across the event.
Mindful of the impending Horsham District Council Year of Culture in 2019, although the cars (and bikes) are the stars, Horsham Piazza Italia, as ever, provided something for everyone to enjoy. From English National Opera Star, Jo Appleby and the glorious voices of Oyster Opera to Horsham Rotary’s Slot Car racing and favourite Horsham children’s entertainer, Tom Foolery, who was to be found balloon twisting for an enthralled collection of youngsters on Easter Monday, .
Regular visitors appreciate that each year the event supports children’s charities and in 2018 this included Chestnut Tree House, The Children’s Trust and The Springboard Project. Supported by The Sporting Bears Dream Rides, whose car owners give passenger rides in smart cars in return for donations, early reports indicate several thousands of pounds were raised.
Commenting on the success of the event, Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for the Local Economy, Councillor Gordon Lindsay said:
“On behalf of the Council, I would like to pay tribute to our partners and vehicle owners who contributed so much to the event and especially to the public who turned out in droves to experience all that this unique event has to offer.
“The social media support has seen some amazing viewer figures for the event’s pre publicity and through event live videos, so thanks to everyone who liked, shared or followed the event, helping it to reach out to new visitors across all of the South East.
“A massive thank you also goes to the Council’s events team for working tirelessly to create such a great experience for all participants to enjoy – residents, visitors and businesses alike.
“These festivals clearly offer a huge opportunity for local businesses to engage with new customers and I hope that increasing numbers of them will choose to do exactly that with the forthcoming programme of events across Horsham District this Spring and Summer.”
Next up on the Council’s event calendar is Horsham’s English Festival on May 12 & 13 and the Plum Jam VW rally on 27 May.