THUNDER BAY -- It was like Christmas in July this weekend for some north side businesses.
That’s the word from owners of various enterprises in the Bay and Algoma neighbourhood, who said the second annual Valley Fresh Buskers’ Festival brought in sales and a customer volume comparable to the busy holiday season.
Brian Hamilton, president of the Bay and Algoma Business Association, said he thinks the buskers’ festival added upwards of $20,000 to the area businesses over the two days.
“It showcases the area and pedestrian friendly nature of it,” Hamilton on Sunday said of the festival.
“Our business association is responsible for advocating, supporting and trying to sponsor all the member businesses and this festival was a way, rather than a sidewalk sale, to have a cultural component and just bring in a lot of other people.”
Hamilton said the pedestrian traffic in the area was more than 10 times what the area would see on a typical summer weekend.
Other organizers said the turnout for the weekend could be as high as 6,000 people, which would double last year’s draw.
The festival closed Bay Street to vehicular traffic from Machar Avenue to Secord Street. It featured a wide variety of performers spread throughout the area, along with many vendors and area businesses selling food, art and other merchandise.
Teri Gyemi, owner of Kula Yoga and Wellness, said the festival has been the best thing to happen to her new business.
Kula Yoga and Wellness, which is located on Algoma Street, has only been open for six weeks. Though they has developed a social media following, the business is still trying to establish itself to the broader public.
The foot traffic created by the festival helped with that.
“It’s been an amazing success for us,” Gyemi said.
“We’re offering free classes but people are looking up at us, wondering who we are and then when they see yoga and wellness they tend to come in and check out the studio space.”
In addition to the classes, which Gyemi estimates attracted about 50 participants, the studio also had a merchandise table on the sidewalk. Over the two days close to 75 per cent of their products were sold.
The relaxed and casual nature of the festival lends itself to people spending most of the day in the area.
Hamilton said there is no sense of urgency for people to be in a certain place at any specific time.
“It’s not really an in-and-out kind of thing. I find there are so many different levels and there are different moods and different themes,” he said.
Valley Fresh owner Mark Buhr said the mix of entertainers and shops led to a variety of different people in the area, including supporters of the performers as well as others exploring the businesses.
The local focus created a unique atmosphere.
“This is a family, community feel,” Buhr said. “I heard from people who walk by say that Thunder Bay needs this and that this is a good thing for Thunder Bay.”
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