Business was humming along above a usual pace last Friday night as holiday revellers descended on downtown Ladysmith for An Old Tyme Christmas and Candlelight Walk.
Carollers strolled along First Avenue by candlelight, singing as they made their way from Symonds Street to Roberts Street. Shops stayed open late, offering cocoa, hot apple cider and crafting opportunities to customers.
The idea originated when the Festival of Lights committee came to a Ladysmith Downtown Business Association (LDBA) general meeting in the spring asking the association to do something special around the 25th anniversary of Light Up. The directors started tossing around ideas and got excited about roasting chestnuts on an open fire, horse and buggy rides down First Avenue and lots of other old-tyme Christmas ideas, explained LDBA vice-president Teresa McKinley.
When LDBA president Lesley Parent got Cathleen McMahon, who runs Mission Management Group, on board, the ideas took off.
“We knew that many businesses are run by owners without any staff, so we decided to start with one night,” said McKinley. “We are hoping it may start a new tradition of staying open late every Friday between Light Up and Christmas.”
The festive frenzy fueled people’s appetites.
Kimmy Phan runs the Wigwam Restaurant with her parents Danny and Ninh. Kimmy said they weren’t open any later than usual, but she thought they were definitely busier than they would otherwise be on an average Friday night.
“We had people lining up for tables,” she said. “It was probably the same as the night of Light Up.”
Jenny Jarvis at Worldly Gourmet was equally enthusiastic regarding Old Tyme Christmas.
“It was excellent,” Jarvis said. “It was very cool, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how much energy went into putting tonight on.”
Jarvis, like most business owners in Ladysmith, said she stays open late solely on Thursday nights. She doubted she would be able to keep up the pace if Old Tyme Christmas were expanded into a week-long event, but she thought this year’s trial was “fabulous.”
“Light Up can be overwhelming,” Jarvis said, “because you don’t get to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ you don’t get to say ‘Hello;’ whereas, this was more local. It’s a wall of faces at Light Up; I couldn’t tell you if I had a neighbour come through or not. Tonight was busy, but it was all local people, everybody that you knew.”
Vanessa Shebib and Sarah Clarke of The Vintage Rose loved the idea of expanding Old Tyme Christmas beyond a lone Friday night in December.
“We’ll be totally burnt out, but yes!” Shebib said.
They were equally fond of this year’s inaugural event.
“We thought it was awesome,” Shebib said. “It was very community-oriented. The whole street was full of energy.”
“It should be like this every Friday night,” Clarke added.
Shebib said Old Tyme Christmas was great for business, adding that they had a “steady stream of people all night long.”