July 18th, 2024

Festival Square paving a path for downtown

By Justin Sibbet for the Lethbridge Herald on October 7, 2023.

Festival Square has been hosting events both big and small since the official launch in 2022. Herald file photo

Check out the local farmer’s market, attend a roller derby jam or relax and listen to some live tunes, Lethbridge’s Festival Square and the events held within are bringing a new atmosphere to the downtown core.

Since the official launch in 2022, Festival Square has been hosting events both big and small during all months of the year.

These events are typically free to attend but the positive economic impact is still being felt by a variety of businesses in the area because of the greater foot traffic brought in by the square.

Sarah Amies, executive director of the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ), says the average attendance for an event is more than 300 individuals, which is directly contributing to a new identity of downtown Lethbridge.

“I would say that it certainly has changed downtown since it’s grand opening last June,” said Amies.

She notes that one such change is the increased nightlife the downtown core is experiencing as a result of events occasionally dipping past traditional business hours.

“We get a lot of business owners and vendors who are super excited to stay open late to collaborate with us during events,” said Amies.

She says the square is also able to act as an extension to larger events held at Galt Gardens or other areas in the downtown sector.

“Galt Gardens is like a gateway into Festival Square and Festival Square being a gateway into the gardens,” said Amies.

However, she says the goal of Downtown BRZ is not to single out residents from the downtown area, but to entice people from all over southern Alberta to come check out the space.

“We want the entire community and those outside Lethbridge’s boundaries as well to come and take a look at downtown and enjoy,” said Amies. “We have new businesses popping up every day. There is a real feeling of vibrancy and engagement at the moment.”

Although, this feeling of vibrancy can arguably only happen if people feel safe and secure when walking the streets of downtown Lethbridge.

Amies says the perspectives of downtown are shifting to a much more welcoming tone as the events begin to increase in size and overall count.

“One of the things that research has showed us is that when the mainstream takes a space back or takes it over, the negative elements tend to sort of fade into the sidelines,” said Amies.

As a result, she says the best way to fix the stigmatism surrounding downtown is to go there and simply enjoy the events put on by local businesses, artists and community members.

“When there are large crowds of folks enjoying their activities, say in Festival Square and in the parks and what not, the negative elements tend to move out to make room for the mainstream,” said Amies.

She says this idea of restoring the downtown to a bright and welcoming location in the city can only happen if the community comes together.

“Downtown is here to be enjoyed and that, as a community, we can do that,” said Amies.

However, she maintains that, while the community needs to continuously work to keep the good times rolling downtown, the current atmosphere is one of jubilation and not rebuilding.

“Downtown is ready and waiting for folks to come and enjoy and in actual fact, downtown is being enjoyed as we speak, the outdoor patios are full of folks enjoying a beverage or a meal, there’s music in the streets, it’s a lovely place to be right now,” said Amies.

The motley of events provided at Festival Square range from watching major sporting events on the big outdoor screens to Christmas tree light festivals and so much more.

For a full calendar with details of every event happening at Festival Square, go to downtownlethbridge.com.

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