Creating a draw for people to come downtown through events is an essential ingredient in improving our downtown. Close to a million people come downtown annually to attend fifty festivals. And there are millions of additional visits to arts, cultural, and entertainment venues. It’s clear that our downtown is Winnipeg’s premier entertainment district, where people experience thriving arts and theatre, sport, or an evening submersed in nightlife. When they come downtown for these reasons, Winnipeggers are sure to spend their money at local businesses too, enjoying a positive downtown experience that will keep them coming back – one reason why we need to see more events downtown.
While residential and retail markets change and contribute to fluctuating downtown growth efforts, events are a foolproof way to bring people downtown. And in doing so, help to position and solidify downtown as the hub for arts, culture, entertainment and hospitality for Manitobans.
The Winnipeg Fringe, ManyFest, KidsFest, Jazz Festival, Folklorama, and many other events of all sizes and themes achieve a similar goal – they bring people back to our downtown, creating important economic spinoffs. They expose people to parts of our downtown which may have gone unnoticed or unfrequented; they create positive perceptions and reinforce our view of the city and downtown as the cultural hub for Winnipeggers. They instill pride. They help to demystify the notion that downtown is not safe. And most importantly, festivals allow our young creative class to create, share their ideas, and celebrate with Winnipeggers the incredible diversity of the people in our city.
Perhaps one of my most favourite events is Movies on Memorial, held every Tuesday in August as a small thanks to those who love our downtown and enjoy outdoor movies. Young families with strollers and wagons, hipsters on bikes all carrying blankets or chairs arrive early with their friends to grab the best spot. As dusk arrives, the movie screen lights up the downtown for everyone to notice, the vibe is unmistakable. And as the movie ends, hundreds of people scatter in opposite directions to grab a bite or a drink before heading home from.
This is why the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its partners have challenged creative event organizers to take our downtown events scene to the next level and will be provided with funding to help get their events off the ground – with a focus on evening and winter events. Our community of event organizers have responded with over 35 applications. The next two years will see at least 16 more events roll out in our downtown, of all sizes and of all types, celebrating local culture, music, art, and some will challenge Winnipeggers to get involved and think differently about the city. We are excited, not only because tens of thousands of more people will come downtown creating over millions in economic spinoffs for our business community and our city but more importantly, these events will have invited the creative class of event organizers to paint the blank canvas, expressing and sharing their ideas with Winnipeggers, becoming part of our collective downtown renewal efforts.
The table is set for Winnipeggers to have even more fun in our downtown. Stay tuned!