That was a shocker, I didn’t expect anywhere near the amount of interest and views that my last post received, especially posted slap bang in the middle of the festive season.
Let’s try this one then:
Most of you don’t know this, but I have a brother that lives in Central Germany. I try to visit him once a year. A few years ago I was visiting during the festive season. One of the many things that really impresses me about Germany are their Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt). That usually occupy a good portion of most downtown areas of cities and towns throughout most of December. The one that I actually visited was in Braunschweig. Here is a link:
I normally don’t like attending things like this, so I remember at the time having to be dragged kicking and screaming to it, but once there I really enjoyed it. In case you didn’t follow my link above here is part of the description:
“Sparkling lights, festive music, Christmas greenery and the great variety on offer attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, calling the Christmas spirit to life.
Handmade Christmas tree decorations, pottery and glassware, candles, wooden toys and much, much more create a festive shopping experience. All kinds of winter and Christmas goodies, specialities from Braunschweig and the surrounding region also make a stroll through the Christmas market a culinary delight.”
“What does any of the above have to do with Collingwood Nobody?” I hear you ask. Well maybe quite a lot. We could do something on a smaller scale in our town very easily.
I went for a stroll downtown Sunday and stopped by our Christmas/winter attraction in the parking lot in front of the Admirals Post. I was mildly amused by the ice carving show. But it was something that held my interest for around 20 minutes. With the complete lack of snow this year I noticed our downtown was buzzing with out of town visitors milling around looking for something to do. Many had obviously got bored with what was on offer up at Blue Mountain Village and were looking for something to amuse them in our downtown.
My daughter actually said to me while we were standing around waiting for ice sculpting to start: “Imagine if our town put as much effort into a Christmas fair/market as they do with the Elvis Festival each year, we could have something that is quite spectacular”. She has been to Germany with me and knows about Christmas markets.
So I gave that idea some thought and came up with the following:
We completely close the parking lot in front of Tesoro’s and The Admirals Post to parking from 15th December until New Year’s Day. We also close 2nd Street to traffic from Pine St to Hurontario St. Offer free parking downtown for this period of time. This area gets decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, decorations etc. Vendors are allowed and encouraged to set up different types of stalls selling Christmas orientated crafts, foods, treats etc. To get around Ontario’s nanny state, prohibition era, booze laws, which are pretty much non-existent in Germany, and booze is somewhat part of the Christmas Market experience. The town could either rent the existing patios from the owners of Tesoro’s and the Admirals Post. Or better still have those two establishments set up heated outdoor patios selling, hot mulled wine, gluhwein, hot chocolate (with or without booze), coffee with Baileys. Soups, Chilli, Stews, food with a Christmas/Winter flair. We have an events plaza with groups singing Christmas carols. Get the kids from the music programs at CCI to perform Christmas music. By all means have your ice sculpture thing but have that as part of a full package of entertainment.
Set specific opening hours for this market say from noon until 9pm at night.
The above is what real economic development looks like. If successful this could also be expanded to encompass the area around the town hall and even the parking lot next to the arena. We could also eventually close the Hurontario Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Its time to start thinking outside the Elvis Festival Box and put some of the organizational skills learned from that festival, to good use, in other ways to promote this town.