Downtown Red Deer businesses are hoping to draw more holiday shoppers with Christmas trees, firepits and music on the Ross Street Patio.
Starting next week, firepits will warm customers on the patio between distanced tables. There will be music — both piped in and live — as well as some comedy acts and prize giveaways.
Christmas during the 2020 pandemic “is a very different kind of season,” said Amanda Gould, executive director of Red Deer’s Downtown Business Association.
“But we are trying to make it as festive as possible and as interactive as possible, given the COVID restrictions,” she added.
While the traditional downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony had to be cancelled by the City of Red Deer due to size gathering restrictions, City Hall Park is now lit up with coloured lights and downtown lamp posts are festooned with seasonal decorations.
And soon, Christmas tree sales will be offered from the Ross Street Patio as an additional festive feature, said Gould.
Local merchants are hoping stronger Christmas sales will help bolster lower revenues during this difficult year.
While many Red Deerians have been staying home and shopping online, many others have understood the importance of shopping local, said Catherine Robb, owner of Housewarmings.
“We’ve seen a good movement for buying local… people have been thinking about it a lot more.”
Kathryn Harris, manager of Sunworks, has also noticed “a real focus on shopping local this year — and that’s amazing.”
A few customers told her they are doing their Christmas shopping early in case of more possible crowd size restrictions or another lockdown.
Michelle Edwards, manager of Country Cupboard, has likewise noticed a sizable spike in customers over the past few weeks. She thinks some people are making a point of shopping at smaller retailers to avoid larger crowds.
Robb believes more people will want to purchase most of their gifts in one location instead of going store to store, so while there could be fewer customers, she hopes to see bigger purchases.
“I’m curious to see how this Christmas season will go,” Robb said.
Some other downtown retailers are planning to stay open longer to take advantage of special downtown events — such as a live Ross Street Patio concert by local musician Paeton Cameron on Saturday evening.
The City of Red Deer is keeping the patio going year-round, since more outdoor entertainment was being encouraged to slow the spread of the virus, which makes more rounds in confined, indoor settings.
Along with the new firepits, there will be s’mores giveaways, outdoor music and comedy programs on the patio on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and some Saturdays before Christmas, said Gould.