AFTER 18 months of waiting, the weekend when the world’s biggest cycling race and the most watched annual sporting event on earth finally arrives in Yorkshire.

The bunting and banners are up, the yellow bikes are on show and traders have thrown themselves into the spirit of things with colourful displays.

The Grand Départ fun officially starts at noon today, Friday, when the new Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Mike Gibbons, officially opens the Ilkley Tour de France Hub Festival.

The opening marks the start of three days of action packed entertainment at the town's Riverside Gardens and is a free, fun, family festival.

The hub will include a superb combination of retailers, food and drink offerings and entertainment, targeted at all ages and ideal for families.

Visitors can enjoy their day out safe in the knowledge that there will be 100 volunteers on hand to assist and 150 people employed purely to ensure crowd safety.

The food court will offer many different types of cuisine to cover most tastes and will be predominantly locally sourced or have Yorkshire connections, where possible. A beer and wine festival will run alongside ensuring visitors have the choice of drinks to match their selected food.

The entertainment will be an eclectic mix, comprising of children’s activities, World Record attempts, bands and performers.

Rupert Stroud is the headline act on the Friday night, along with highly regarded soul singer Janet Jaye providing entertainment during the day.

Two giant screens will show the Tour de France race live and on non race dates and times they will endeavour to show other key summer sporting events taking place. This could potentially include the likes of Wimbledon, Formula 1 and the World Cup.

At night the screens will be turned into a giant pop up cinema and will be showing the Lego Movie, Despicable Me 2 and one other family film.

With the tour caravan coming through Ilkley at approximately 10.25am on Saturday, July 5, followed by the riders two hours later, the hub gives spectators the choice to either watch the race directly or on the screens provided, whilst still being able to soak up the atmosphere.

Outside The Box cafe, a registered charity which is committed to supporting people with learning disabilities, has been named as the key beneficiary during the Tour de France weekend.

Throughout the three day festival there will be collection buckets available in the Riverside Gardens for people to make their donations. Outside the Box will also have a stall throughout the three day event where people can buy some of the delicious cakes, biscuits and sweet treats that they are so good at making as well as making a donation.

“We are very pleased to be supporting this great community event,” said Jo Powell one of the Trustees of the Outside the Box project. “We are thrilled that the Hub chose us as their key charity and look forward to helping the event be a great success”.

Local campsites and hotels are reporting being inundated, with many, such as Ilkley Rugby Club, already full.

But Ilkley town councillor Bryan Websdale, who heads the town's Tour de France group, said, there was still room for more visitors.

"It has certainly really picked up in the last week, and some campsites, such as the rugby club are full," he said.

"Hotels in the town have also seen an uptake, although there are still some places with space, particularly the smaller campsites along the route. It's going to be great."

The Ilkley Hub event at Riverside Gardens will be open for three days from July 4-6 and will have the capacity for 13,000 people.

For safety reasons prohibited items include, but are not restricted to: large parasols, tents, gazebos, awnings, laser pens, air horns, barbecues, paper lanterns or any lighting with a naked flame. Strictly no glass, cans or alcohol may be brought into the site.