Christmas markets busy in Calgary region

Although there may not be any snow on the ground right now in Calgary, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Everywhere you go.

And everywhere you go these days in the city you’re bound to run into a variety of Christmas markets from the massive Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market to the European Christmas Village Market in Bearspaw to the Market Collective at the BMO Centre to the smaller ones throughout local neighbourhoods across Calgary.

Some markets have come and gone but there are still many that continue in December – and they’re getting busy.

Like Spruce Meadows.

The sprawling equestrian facility south of Calgary reports that it has had record crowds showing up for its International Christmas Market.

It drew nearly 60,000  shoppers to the grounds through the first two weekends, with organizers hoping for a repeat as the market – one of the top five rated in the world – enters its final weekend (Dec. 1-3). 

“We had a fantastic first two weekends thanks to some gorgeous weather, our huge selection of local vendors, and, of course, it’s easier than ever for people to get here following expansions to the South West Calgary Ring Road,” said Spruce Meadows Vice-President Ian Allison. 

“This weekend we have new vendors coming to Candy Cane Lane to join Canmore’s Wild Life Distillery, OAK Creations, and accessories for dogs and babies made by Mylk.

“Every year we try to expand our offering and produce a better and distinctive market. I truly think this year we have our best-ever market, thanks to a number of additions, as well as extended hours. We have always been inspired by the great markets of Europe, so we are offering guests the chance to feel like they are at The Ritz or Claridge’s, with a sophisticated Sunday High Tea.   

“Our new Long Table Dinner has also been popular. After an afternoon of shopping, guests can meet up at the Gallery on the Green Congress Hall for a delicious meal, all sharing the same beautifully decorated long table, which really adds to the festive feeling. It’s a nice way to top off what we hope is a truly magical experience.” 

There are about 300 vendors at the market.

There are many other markets running in December in Calgary. Tourism Calgary has put together a list, which can be found here, of the Best Christmas Markets around Calgary.

The markets come at a time when campaigns have been launched to support local businesses. Recently, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business held its Small Business Saturday event, promoting people to shop at small businesses in their communities.

And the City of Calgary has also launched its fifth annual Support Local campaign, encouraging Calgarians to prioritize shopping at local businesses to support their community. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of Calgary, contributing over 95 per cent of our city’s businesses, providing two-thirds of our employment opportunities, and generating four times more economic activity than large corporations. As the holiday season approaches, I encourage every Calgarian to stand with our neighbors and fellow community members. We can make a positive impact on our community together,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

Calgary’s 15 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are also a great resource for local shoppers. The recent boundary expansion of three BIAs, 17th Avenue Retail & Entertainment District, Crescent Heights Village, and Marda Loop, promotes stronger collaboration and a support system among local businesses. This expansion enables the BIAs to offer a greater variety of unique products and services for local shoppers, enhancing the enjoyment and convenience of holiday shopping.

“There are over 6,200 local businesses in Calgary’s 15 BIAs that are eager to showcase their great products and services.  It’s a win-win situation when Calgarians shop local, they are supporting their favourite businesses and boosting Calgary’s economic vitality,” said Mike Bruni, chair of Marda Loop BIA. “Our local businesses are grateful to their customers for supporting their long-term success and prosperity. BIA business leaders take pride in having a united but diverse group of BIAs, highlighting each community’s unique character, and a strong community of businesses that uplift and support one and other. The work of BIAs supports local businesses directly and also makes a big impact on advancing our city’s vibrancy.”

Erin Chrusch, leader of Business & Local Economy for the City, said supporting local businesses during the holiday season is an opportunity to show love to more than 51,000 enterprises that make Calgary vibrant and diverse.

 “In 2023, we have seen business license applications increase by 14 per cent year-over-year, and for every $100 earned by these businesses, $45 circulates back into our local economy, collectively fostering our city’s future. We invite everyone to join us in the 2023 Support Local campaign, where we can ignite economic resilience, invest in our workforce, and explore new shops and spaces in our neighborhoods,” she said.

(Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran of the media industry for more than 40 years and named in 2021 a Top Ten Business Journalist in the world and only Canadian)