Downtown Kelowna is ready to light up for the holiday season. It’s a chance to bring some festive cheer after a difficult summer.
“Merchants downtown are trying to recover from a pretty tough time from August on ‘til now, because the wildfires ended tourism for us early and traffic hadn’t been that great downtown. But it’s picking up as we get into the Christmas season,” says Mark Burley, executive director of the Downtown Kelowna Association.
The annual Winter Street Market kicks off Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Water Street. It will be followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree at Stuart Park at 5:30 p.m. Burley is hoping for a big turnout.
“In past years we’ve had anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000, so I don’t expect that will be any different this year.”
He says there’s a lot more going on than just the market and light-up on Saturday. “Of course, we have the Festival of Trees at the Delta Grand, we have another Christmas market going on at Prospera (Craft Culture), as well as lantern making at the arts centre (Kelowna Art Gallery).”
This weekend also marks the start of free on-street parking for the first two hours on Saturdays through the month of December.
“You still have to go to the parking station or use the app and register your license number, but you get your first two hours free, and of course all three of the parkades are free all day Saturday and all day Sunday all year round.”
Burley also notes there’s an exciting new option to help draw shoppers downtown this season; free transit service. "People can come on downtown, they can do their shopping without having to worry about parking, they can climb on a bus anywhere within the city of Kelowna and it’s free on Saturdays in December, courtesy of transit and the City of Kelowna."
The Stuart Park skating rink is shaping up nicely and it should be ready in time for the Winter Street Market and light-up as well. It’s scheduled to open on Friday.
Oh, and Santa will be in town to help kick-off the festivities.