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Lethbridge, AB – Downtown is the heart of our city and this year, in support of the many great small businesses that call downtown home, it is also the heart of the holidays. Starting November 15, visitors will enjoy five weeks of events and activities including outdoor skating and business promotions highlighting the originality of downtown Lethbridge.
Heart of the Holidays will replace the one-day Bright Lights Festival which has been a downtown holiday tradition for the last 18 years. By spreading events out over a longer period of time and providing more variety, this new holiday tradition hopes to attract more people to the downtown core.
“The Bright Lights Festival has been great but it was just one night and it was very dependent on weather, says Ted Stilson, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone. “Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens now has an amazing lights display for residents to enjoy so it was time to look at something different for the downtown. By switching things up and introducing a new event, we hope everyone will find something that will bring them downtown this holiday season.”
Skating in festival square will be one of the main attractions as part of the Heart of the Holidays event. Festival square (the small parking area on 6St. S.) will be transformed into a skating rink for the week of November 15 - 24 and December 7 - 14. The Downtown BRZ, The Heart of our City Committee and Lethbridge Sports Council have partnered to bring the outdoor skating rink to the downtown. There will be synthetic ice (see attached photo) installed and maintained for the public to skate on free of charge. There will also be additional lighting and seating provided as well as treats for skaters to enjoy.
“Over the years, something we’ve continually heard through community engagement is that residents would enjoy a place to go outdoor skating,” says Andrew Malcolm, City of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization Manager. “Our Lethbridge chinooks have always been a concern in maintaining ice but by having a synthetic ice surface, which we’ve borrowed from Lethbridge Sport Council, we now have a solution. We are really excited to offer this new opportunity for friends and family to meet downtown and enjoy skating together this holiday season.”
Over the next several weeks, Heart of the Holidays will also introduce:
Selfies with Santa – find Santa downtown and take a selfie for a chance to win great prizes.
Downtown Holiday Market – November 23 at Casa. Shop local at this special market showcasing downtown Lethbridge businesses.
Plaid Days - Dec 6 & 7
Shop local this holiday season and enjoy great deals from unique businesses. Catch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage while sipping hot chocolate then hop off for a skate at festival square.
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“When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy his 3rd home. You’re helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy his team jersey, moms and dads put food on the table. Shop Local”.
This quote was from a social media post by Dylan’s Burger and Deli, located in our Downtown at 313-5 Street South. This was supplemented with the message “We would not be here without the support of our community. Come downtown and see us. We are here and ready to go. Our downtown needs more support than ever”.
Downtown has been feeling the impacts related to increasing drug use, homelessness, and the overall perception of safety. Consultation is underway aimed at developing a Community Drug Strategy that can be implemented as soon as possible, with the findings of phase 1 being reported to Council today.
In the words of local business owner Hunter Heggie, “Lethbridge’s heart is stressed but it isn’t broken. This is our city. Come shop, eat, and use the services in our Downtown”. Whether it’s a hard-to-find vinyl record, a stunning outfit, delicious candy, or the latest in baby merchandise – you can find it right here at home in our Downtown. The viability of our great downtown businesses depends on people continuing to patronize the Downtown – especially during the holiday shopping season (Yes, it’s that time of year, already!)
There are many community benefits to shopping local, including stimulating the local economy, creating high quality jobs, increasing local investment, creating unique local character, offering superior customer service, fostering cultural diversity, increasing support for community groups, events and charities, and creating vibrancy at the street level which deters negative behaviors.
Did you know that when you shop at a local business, 70 cents for every dollar spent stays in the local economy, compared to 30 cents with a larger chain store, and less than one cent when buying from an online mega-retailer.
Mom-and-pop stores have helped shape the identity of downtown as the Heart of Our City for more than 100 years. This holiday season, we invite the residents of Lethbridge to come together and come Downtown to shop local. And by doing so, you’ll be keeping your locally owned and operated businesses and surrounding community healthy, prosperous and vibrant.
Also be sure to check out the 18th Annual Bright Lights Festival which will kick off the holiday shopping season in Downtown Lethbridge on November 16th in Galt Gardens. Also be sure to check out Christmas at Casa on November 16th and 17th which will feature more than 100 artists and guilds selling one-of-a-kind artisanal wares and artwork. And don’t miss the Galt’s Night at the Museum Shopping event on November 29th.
I challenge every resident to help Our Downtown to be the best it can be. With our partners on the Downtown BRZ and the Heart of Our City Committee, we encourage you to contribute to the content of this column and the video series with your comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions by engaging with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntown and at www.getinvolvedlethbridge.ca/ourdowntown.
*This column was published in the Lethbridge Herald on November 5, 2018.