Holiday Market might have some life in it yet - thinking is being done about combining it with Santa Claus parade

By Pepper Parr

February 22, 2023



Council approved the application for a new event called Burlington Holiday Market for a two-year period (2021 and 2022) after which there would be a review

Meagan Madill was touted as a “Rock Star” – found herself facing mixed views from a public that wasn’t told about the event until it reach Council.

When the announcement was first made Mayor Meed Ward called Meagan Madill a “rock star”.

The 2021 Holiday market was beaten up by the weather and had to close early.

The second year wasn’t all that much weather. It was cold and the vendor offerings weren’t all that appealing

Rick Burgess: retired lawyer and a former candidate for the office of Mayor has become the spokesperson for the Holiday Market

Retired lawyer and former candidate for Mayor Rick Burgess appeared before council early in February to defend the event and ask that the event be given another try.

The organizers had discussions with ward 2 councillor Lisa Kearns about linking the Holiday Market with the Santa Clause parade which takes place earlier in December.

The Director of Recreation, Community and Culture was to report on the economic impact of local business, cultural impact, and parking/active transportation impact of the Burlington Holiday Market.

The second Burlington Holiday Market was anchored in Parking Lot 1 (431 Elizabeth Street) as well as utilized the Elgin Promenade and the new Promenade expansion (431 Pearl Street) that connects Lot 1 to the Centennial Trail and included the use of Civic Square.

Timing issues resulted in the Event Organizer not having event metrics available for the early February Standing Committee meeting – they were able to delegate and present data.
Brian Dean of the Burlington Downtown Business Association (BDBA) provided a letter of support for the continuation of the event along with some suggestions on the timing and location of the event in the future.

The report from the organizers reports substantial increase in the amount of pedestrian traffic during the event in comparison to the weekends before and after. The chart below compares pedestrian data from 2021 to 2022.

* Traffic count includes pedestrians and bicycles

Parking staff provided data that is recorded through the city’s municipal parking systems’ new Business Intelligence (BI) units over three weekends to compare usage from Thursday – Sunday during the weekends before, during, and after the event. Data was obtained from Lot 4 (between John St. and Elizabeth St.) and the downtown parking garage at 414 Locust St. Data from Lot 3 (near the No Frills Plaza was unavailable due to a system error.) The BI units summarize daily usage counts on surface lots at 9am, 1pm and 6pm.

Although there was a slight increase indicated in the use of parking during the event (an average of 5% on event weekend) the date would also suggest that the increased volume of pedestrians who visited the area by a personal vehicle had a normal turn- over rate thus parking inventory never reached full capacity except for Lot 4 which tends to be near full capacity on a regular basis:

Options Considered
The options for the future of Burlington’s Holiday Market were as follows:
• To decline or cancel any further events to take place
• To let it proceed but move it to the first weekend in December to coincide with the annual Santa Claus Parade (held the first Sunday in December)
• To let it continue to be held the second week in December as it is now in Downtown Burlington, or
• Move the event to another location in the city.

The space has a reputation as a wind corridor, it lived up to that reputation in 2021

December weather is problematic. Outdoor events always face weather-related risks at any time of year; winter weather has harsher impacts resulting in higher risks.
The Lot 1 corridor north of Village Square has been challenging – a traditional wind corridor. The BDBA has recommended that the organizers move the event footprint further west along the Elgin Promenade and consider adding the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC) plaza.

After two consecutive years for Burlington’s Holiday Market and based on the data reported along with there being no major issues or concerns arising from residents or local businesses, staff recommends that the event move forward if organizers continue to apply to host if there are no major changes or other impacts added like the introduction of any road closures or other such matter which would require a public consultation process.

Retail is a tough business and there are few really, really great seasons. Covid 19 hit this sector hard – it was a daily struggle to keep the doors open.  For many members of the BDBA there was no time for the emails sent out by the Executive Director talking up the Holiday Market.  Brian Dean seemed out of touch with his members; he certainly wasn’t in the trenches with them.

The one thing the Holiday Market could do was take potential business from the brick and mortar locations in the downtown core. A dollar spent at a table in a tent was a dollar that didn’t make it to the retail cash register.

When the event was first introduced as something that would grow to become the equivalent to the Christmas market in Munich – that should have been enough to tell the public that this initiative had not really been thought through.  However, it isn’t dead yet


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3 comments to Holiday Market might have some life in it yet – thinking is being done about combining it with Santa Claus parade

  • Blair Smith

    Agree totally with Penny. The primary reason that the Holiday Market was unsuccessful was that it did not offer goods that people wanted to buy. There are only so many scents, candles and edible “goodies” that one wants. Leave the Real Estate and fringe vendors at home and give people interesting craft products at reasonable prices. Things might then turn around.

  • Wayne Brown

    Mr. Parr,

    Your comment “Brian Dean seemed out of touch with his members; he certainly wasn’t in the trenches with them.”….is out of touch and shows that you, Sir, are not in the trenches with downtown business.

    Over the years Mr. Dean has represented the wishes and views of his members accurately and well. Whether the topic was patios, parades, or prominades, he has lent his considerable intellect and influence to support the best outcome for everyone in the downtown area.

    On numerous occasions I have had the pleasure of speaking with business people in his membership area and have found nothing but appreciation for his constant support.

    Have a look at any transcript from his delegations to numerous groups, including City Council, and it’s obvious the he has a grasp of the topics and is well aware of the nitty gritty details required to move forward towards a positive conclusion that has something for everyone.

    Rather than finding fault or promoting false conclusions Mr. Parr, how about working together to find a satisfactory conclusion to the current discussion of the Market and the Parade. I’m sure the BDBA would welcome your help rather than your hindrance.

    Editor’s note: We don’t share the view of the writer. Putting someone else in the position would better serve the members of the BDBA who pay the tax that supports the association.

  • Penny Hersh

    Perhaps the Holiday Market should be “dead”.

    As for an increase in the use of other parking lots it could have nothing to do with the Holiday Market. Perhaps it was because where they wanted to park was not available because parking spaces were being taken up by the vendors.

    I have been told that what was being offered for sale at this market did not meet the expectations of the public. Wonder if this was the reason there were no major concerns or issues lodged by the “brick and mortar” stores.

    It seems that whenever these event organizers come before council there is always some reason why they cannot provide the information required. This is not something new.