Osborne Village ends Canada Day
A Winnipeg tradition for decades, Canada Day celebrations at Osborne Village have been officially canceled, drawing mixed reviews from area businesses.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Osborne Village Business Improvement Area has decided to end the annual street party that dates back to the 1990s.
During the event, which usually took place on June 30 and July 1, a section of Osborne Street was closed to traffic and transformed into a sea of people, vendors and outdoor cafes.
Lindsay Somers, executive director of BIZ, said businesses and residents were no longer benefiting from the event.
“A 300-seat patio on Osborne Street is not indicative of an Osborne Village experience. No one is connecting with business in a meaningful way, or even getting a meal they can come back for,” Somers said. .
The Village, home to approximately 13,000 people, is one of Winnipeg’s most densely populated neighbourhoods. Residents tend to spend their time and money locally not just for convenience — BIZ has 150 businesses — but because they’re invested in the success of the community, Somers explained.
While the celebration can draw tens of thousands of people to the area, many have spent money on lemonade, mini donuts and knick-knacks from outside vendors while ignoring the shops on the street, she said.
Robbie Rousseau, a longtime resident of the Village, puts it more bluntly.
“Nothing more than beer and food carts,” he said. “Many Osborne Village residents would tell you they would be leaving over Canada Day weekend.”
Rousseau has lived in the Village for 28 years; he moved there from Gimli after graduating from high school.
In recent years, he said celebrating Canada Day has become a “much darker” event.
“You add 50,000 drunk people to the street at the weekend and bad things can necessarily happen,” says Rosseau. “We’ve had two years without Canada Day celebrations and it’s a perfect evolution.”
“You add 50,000 drunk people to the streets over the weekend and good things can’t necessarily happen… We’ve had two years without Canada Day celebrations and that’s a perfectly fine development .” –Robbie Rousseau
When Somers became executive director of BIZ last October, she asked 90 companies to participate in a survey of the annual event. Among them, 27 responded. Nearly 80% said Canada Day did little or nothing to boost their sales. Most felt that he was not attracting new customers or returning.
Michelle Arcand and Brent Jackson, owners of Urban Waves and Old Gold Vintage Vinyl, two businesses that share a storefront on Osborne Street, say they didn’t participate in the survey but aren’t surprised by the results.
Urban Waves usually loses money on Canada Day because Arcand needs to hire additional staff. Despite the influx of people on Canada Day, she rarely made enough sales to cover her costs, she said.
“At first, man, it was about culture. It was a smaller event and then something just changed,” Arcand said.
“(It became) a reason for people to just have a beer on Osborne. It turned into this kind of party where businesses like (ours) would kind of suffer,” Jackson added.