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Organizers of Sidney Street Market want more time to set up

Longer setup would help market recover, but one councillor raises questions about value of market
While the organizers of the Sidney Street Market plan to return to the event’s historical downtown location, they are questioning the proposed setup of half an hour. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Town of Sidney and organizers of Sidney’s popular street market find themselves in a dispute over proposed starting times for the popular event as it plans to return to the streets of the community.

“We have reviewed the contract with the Town of Sidney to coordinate the Sidney Street Market for 2022 to 2024 and have concerns about the setup time for the (market) vendors that has been changed from 4:30 to 5 p.m.,” said Laurie McDermid of Westcoast Impressions, in a letter to council. “As a result, I am asking that the market setup time be returned to 4:30.”

The market has historically run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. along a stretch on Beacon Avenue between Fifth and First avenues that was closed off to vehicles on Thursday nights from mid-May to the end of August. Due to the pandemic, the market has temporarily shifted to the parking lot of Mary Winspear Centre on Sundays.

Under the proposed time terms, which were also effective in 2019, vendors will only have half an hour to set up, which will not give them enough time, said McDermid, adding later that vendors may still be setting up after the official start of the market. “This limited setup time will discourage many vendors from participating in the Sidney Street Market,” she said. “Most booths takes over an hour to set up.”

This said, no other market provides only half an hour for set up. Most provide at least one and many two hours.

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Already facing higher transportation costs by virtue of having to travel to Sidney on top of other expenses that make Sidney’s market the most expensive to attend, vendors may set up at established or emerging markets elsewhere in the region, she said.

McDermid said many vendors have moved to a modified version of Esquimalt’s street market, which has maintained modified operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We will have to work very hard to get these vendors back onto the street after a two-year absence, even with the same policies in place as we had before,” she said in warning of what she called additional restrictions.

“We need to make our market, as appealing as possible, in order to get it back into shape.”

Council voted unanimously to refer McDermid’s letter to staff for review with staff said to bring forward a methodology for surveying businesses impacted by the market’s effect on parking. While many businesses stay open during the market to benefit from visitors to the market — the event has historically drawn thousands — setup also impacts area parking with a longer setup having the potential to undermine business.

Coun. Terri O’Keeffe alluded to these concerns when she spoke to the motion, which originally included language to consult businesses about the market’s timing (with Westcoast Impression handling the consulting).

“I wonder if it is also an opportunity to check in with business owners in that area, not just whether they are agreeable with the time, but if there are other things regarding the market that they might have feedback on,” she said. “Over the last couple of years, I have heard mixed reviews from downtown businesses in terms of whether the market actually generates more traffic to businesses or not.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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