Summer events attracting more people to the downtown district

Kristen McEwen
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Some people may have noticed that the city’s downtown district has been busier this summer — that’s because there has been more of an effort to bring people to the downtown area.

A passerby drops a loonie into a busker's guitar case at the Farmer's Market at the Summer on the Square on Wednesday. 

The Prince Albert Downtown Improvement District Association (PADIDA) set up a number of events downtown this year. Among the summer’s attractions were the ninth annual Street Fair on June 16, Main Street 1912 on July 28, a Farmer’s Market every Saturday and Summer on the Square every Wednesday.

According to James Banman, manager of PADIDA, more than 6,000 people attended the Street Fair in June.

“Just kind of (the) general consensus for that one was, in the nine years that we’ve been doing it, business owners and people were saying it’s the best Street Fair we ever had,” Banman said.

The Main Street 1912 street fair was in collaboration with the Centennial of Flight air show. Many of the businesses in the downtown area were built in 1912 and wanted to celebrate “100 years of prosperity.”

“That was another street fair type of event where we had anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people,” Banman said. “It wasn’t quite as big as June but still it was an awful lot of fun.”

The street fairs, which provided plenty of live entertainment and food, also provided free advertising for the businesses in the downtown area.

Businesses that were open during the street fairs appeared to benefit from having the events located nearby.

Jordan Fahr, a sales associate for Ted Matheson Men’s Wear Ltd., said the street fairs brought in people to the store on the days of the events as well as the days after.

“There definitely is a trail,” Fahr said. “Those things tend to get people that don’t normally — that might not think to come downtown — they come now for certain things and they see what else is down here and they see that they have no reason not to be down here.”

Dean Markowsky, owner of Dean’s Diner also noticed business increased during street fair days. He said he noticed the diner would sell more cans of pop during street fair days.

The Farmer’s Market, which has been held each Wednesday and Saturday since May, also attracts a fair amount of people.

The Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays is called Summer on the Square. Live entertainment and children’s activities are held during the Farmer’s Market on Central Avenue. According to Banman, approximately 400 to 1,000 people attend the event.

“I would like to think having those kind of activities attracts more people,” he said. “It definitely attracts more families with children to come down and enjoy what we have here in Prince Albert. I think promoting Farmers’ Market, small business and whatnot — like what we have downtown — is one of our mandates because Prince Albert is so filled with big box stores that we really want to give people a taste of … things that are produced locally and things that are sold locally and where people’s money will go back into the community as opposed to leaving it.”

“That was another street fair type of event where we had anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people. It wasn’t quite as big as June but still it was an awful lot of fun.” James Banman, manager of the Prince Albert Downtown Improvement District Association

While Summer on the Square also brings in customers for places like Ted Matheson Men’s Wear, some businesses further north on Central Avenue do not fare as well.

Margaret Stark, owner of Margie’s Nu-Image, said when Farmer’s Market is set up on Wednesdays, traffic is diverted from the rest of the street — away from her business.

“The street fair is good,” Stark said. “… what hinders our sales is the (Farmer’s Market) over here. It totally blocks the traffic off … even the buses need to be rerouted for that.”

Stark suggested that having the Farmer’s Market spread throughout the street, including having a vendor in front of each small business, would help bring awareness to other businesses.

Stark also said crime is another hindrance to sales in the downtown area.

This year, in partnership with PADIDA, the Taste of Prince Albert was also held downtown in Memorial Square . Though overall sales at the event were down by 15 per cent, CEO of Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Merle Lacert said the decrease was due to weather, shorter hours, and the absence of KidzFest at the same venue.

“I don’t think the venue actually had an impact in the success,” Lacert said. “I think that given that we went through some significant weather, we were able to obtain 80 per cent of the traffic that we’ve seen from the previous year. I actually view the (Taste of P.A.) more as a destination event, where people will come to it almost regardless of location. So I really felt that the location itself didn’t have a huge factor on the success on the overall sales.”

Although having events downtown have brought more people through the doors of some businesses, it’s too soon to say what the full impact will be.

“It’s very difficult to say at this point because we’ve just finished the events,” Banman said. “And so it’s going to be a few months before we actually start to notice a change because businesses will be tracking their sales …  and we’ll start to notice how many families are walking around downtown and how many moms and their strollers and how many people are biking we’ll start to notice some of that street traffic …”


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