By Kuhl, Nick on November 9, 2019.
The Bright Lights Festival is no more.
In its place, however, are a host of other activities planned for downtown Lethbridge in the lead-up to Christmas. They will include Plaid Days Dec. 6 and 7, being marketed as a Black Friday-style event – but for local businesses – as well a Casa Market.
The biggest new addition, though, may be a nearly 1,000-square-foot synthetic ice surface which will be placed in Festival Square on 6 Street South from Nov. 15-24 and from Dec. 7-14.
When 6 Street was revamped in the 1980s, it was envisioned to have Festival Square as a public space more often than as parking space, said Andrew Malcolm, City of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization Manager. There have been past successes with Festival Square, including international soccer viewing parties, Oktoberfest events and the continuing summer Farmers’ Markets, but this may usher in a new movement as part of a public realm enhancement project, he said.
“We are excited to try this out – replace a few parking stalls with a really positive activity,” Malcolm said Friday morning at the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone office during a official launch of the new Heart of the Holidays initiative.
Heart of the Holidays will replace the one-day Bright Lights Festival which had been a downtown holiday tradition for the past 18 years. By spreading events out during a longer period of time, officials believe they will attract more people to the downtown core to encourage shopping at local businesses.
The outdoor skating rink is a partnership between the Downtown BRZ, the Heart of our City Committee and the Lethbridge Sport Council. It will be installed and maintained for the public to skate on free of charge and will have additional lighting and seating.
“”We’ve heard over and over again from the public they would love the opportunity to do some public skating,” Malcolm said. “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. We’re hoping it’s something really positive.”
“It’s change, for sure,” said Ted Stilson, executive director of the BRZ.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with Festival Square is more programming on the street. This will be the first initiative for that. We’re going to carry on from what we did – and celebrate the downtown. The Bright Lights Festival has been great but it was just one night and it was very dependent on weather. Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden 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.”
Heart of the Holidays will also feature horse-drawn carriage rides, selfies with Santa, and a Downtown Holiday Market Nov. 23 at Casa.
“This is where our downtown businesses can really all come into one room and really show off what they have to offer,” said Tasha Hogg, marketing co-ordinator for the BRZ. “A reminder to people that we have a lot of really cool shops downtown.”
“I’m really looking forward to the co-operation and excitement,” said Coun. Mark Campbell, who is on the HOC Committee which provided an activity grant for Heart of the Holidays. “Heart of the City is all about revitalizing the downtown.”
“It’s so important to promote local businesses in our community year-round, but no more important time then during the Christmas season,” Stilson said.
If any organizations are interested in creating a group outing to the synthetic ice surface, they can contact Hogg at the BRZ office by calling 403-327-9002.
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