Sound studio

Crowds gather in the Owen Sound River District as the hottest street sale returns

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Downtown Owen Sound’s River District came alive on Saturday as the hottest street sale returned for the first time in three years.

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Thousands of people flocked to the event along 2n/a Avenue East where they mingled with friends, attended entertainment and activities, browsed vendor and business sales, and enjoyed some of the many dining options on offer. The weather cooperated with the temperature around 20 degrees Celsius, sunshine and clear blue skies.

“Look at the traffic. That’s wonderful. The day is perfect for that,” said Dave Parsons, owner of Parsons Foto Source and chairman of the Owen Sound River District Board of Directors. “I really think people are ready to be pandemic free. It was a big job.

Parsons said he was happy to see the downtown area so lively and bustling. He said he thought many businesses were doing well and many new businesses had set up in recent months.

“They’re really positive about what’s going on downtown and I can definitely say we’re as busy as ever,” Parsons said. “Anyone looking to change their business to accommodate what’s happened can certainly do that and be successful there.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the sale to be canceled in 2020 and 2021, but organizers were able to keep it going again this year. Saturday was the 23rd edition of the event, and the first since downtown was renamed The River District in late 2020 and the Downtown Owen Sound Improvement Area was renamed the River District Board of Management. The rebranding follows the city’s improvement work in the riverfront and downtown areas as part of its Downtown River Precinct project. In its 2022 capital budget, the city approved $1.78 million for Phase 2 of this project, for work in Block 900 of 1st East Ave.

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Parsons said River District Council and the city are working together more than ever to promote and help the area.

“We’ve done a reasonable job before, but we have a lot of expertise that’s been hired, a website that’s very, very active, and more people involved based on city employees working for downtown.” , Parsons said. “I believe we needed a rebrand and some might say that’s for nothing, but look around. It’s been very helpful.

Parsons said the River District fits the area, and it’s something he’s long promoted as a downtown business owner for decades.

“We used to tell people when they were coming to take their pictures and they wanted them to go in an hour, cross the street and take a little walk along the driveway,” Parsons said. “The water is right there and it’s a really nice walk.”

Parsons said additional activities like noontime musical series and attractions like galleries and businesses have caused people to spend more time downtown.

“We’ll sometimes see people coming back in two or three hours now rather than the hour they expected to be downtown because there’s so much going on multiple days of the week,” Parsons said. “I think downtown is healthier than it’s ever been.”

One such new business that has just opened downtown is Upwards Art Studio, which sells art supplies and offers workshops at its location in the 900 block of 2n/a East Ave.

On Saturday they had set up a table outside where young and old could color some of the countless river rocks left over from Bare Birch, which previously occupied the location and has since moved to another location a short distance.

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Steve Lavalley, 4, left, and Frankie Lavalley, 6, of Cape Croker color river rocks outside Upwards Art Studio during the hottest street sale along East 2nd Avenue on Saturday July 9, 2022 in Owen Sound, Ontario.  It was the 32nd edition of the event and the first time it had been held since 2019.
Steve Lavalley, 4, left, and Frankie Lavalley, 6, of Cape Croker color river rocks outside Upwards Art Studio during the hottest street sale along East 2nd Avenue on Saturday July 9, 2022 in Owen Sound, Ontario. It was the 32nd edition of the event and the first time it had been held since 2019.

Upwards owner Amelia Kraemer said she used to attend Hottest Street Sale events as a child and it was nice to be back as a business owner.

“It’s where I grew up and when I became an artist over 10 years ago I found myself driving to Guelph, Toronto and all over the province trying to get art supplies” , said Kraemer, adding that she wanted to help the many. local artists by creating a place where the art supplies they need are available to them.

She opened her doors a little over two weeks ago and the street sale proved to be an opportunity to introduce her business to many members of the community.

“It’s an opportunity to show that art is inclusive, that’s why we have rainbows everywhere, art is for everyone, not just a few people, and that’s really our philosophy at the store,” Kraemer said. “I think it’s really important to have people who are new to the area or have been there and coming back to revitalize downtown and having an art-centric orientation in downtown is something that the city can market very well.”

Kraemer said his business compliments many other people downtown. She makes sure her selection doesn’t duplicate what other downtown merchants are already offering, and her workshops complement what others are offering.

“It’s nice to be able to send someone to another downtown store that’s within walking distance,” she said.

Zoey Laurin makes a balloon dog for 7-year-old Ciara Oldrieve at the hottest street sale along East 2nd Avenue on Saturday July 9, 2022 in Owen Sound, Ont.  It was the 32nd edition of the event and the first time it has been held since 2019. Ciara's parents, Nick and Kaela Oldrieve, look on.
Zoey Laurin makes a balloon dog for 7-year-old Ciara Oldrieve at the hottest street sale along East 2nd Avenue on Saturday July 9, 2022 in Owen Sound, Ont. It was the 32nd edition of the event and the first time it has been held since 2019. Ciara’s parents, Nick and Kaela Oldrieve, look on.

The town’s community development coordinator, Viveca Gravel, said she was very pleased with the turnout and happy to see so many people back downtown.

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“People were ready for this and they wanted to get out there and support local businesses, local vendors and local artisans,” Gravel said. “We have 2n/a Avenue here just bumping.

Gravel said the event’s return was a long time coming and many vendors and businesses were eager to return to the streets.

“It’s about bringing people to the River District and rediscovering it,” Gravel said. “People don’t know these new stores are here and it’s a great way for people to come and meet them face to face and see what they have to offer and hopefully that translates to more of traffic here in the future.”

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