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In The Market For Great Food, Drinks, Music & Friends?

In The Market For Great Food, Drinks, Music & Friends?

Photo: “The Willistead Night Market” returns September 29 and October 27. Experience the best in business Walkerville has to offer along with local musicians, artists, food and libations. Photo courtesy of Ryan Brough.

In The Market For Great Food, Drinks, Music & Friends?

For nearly as long as man has existed, outdoor markets, where persons can buy and sell or trade their wares, have coexisted. They are referred to as bazaars, flea markets, farmers markets, night markets etc. Often located in the centre of a city, they operate either daily or on selected days throughout the week.

According to Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FarmersMarketsOntario.com), the province has more than 174 outdoor markets. In the 1980s there were 60 markets province wide. Today, that number has tripled.

There’s been a real renaissance in residents wanting “top quality farm-fresh products directly from the person who produced them” and from communities “because they bring people together and can turn once-deserted areas into hives of activity, attracting extra business for stores and restaurants nearby.” (Quotes are from the above website.)

The Windsor and Essex County area has a number of outdoor markets during the spring, summer and fall where residents can buy, fresh from the field, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers, in addition to baked goods, meat and fish products.

Artisans create and sell their scented candles, homemade jewellery, artistic works, and a whole host of other unique products and crafts are also available to the delight of local residents. Many offer a children’s area with entertainment and activities to excite the little ones. Outdoor markets strive to create a family environment with something for everyone.

In 2014, the Walkerville Night Market made its debut in historic Olde Walkerville on Wyandotte Street East. It is now known as “The Willistead Night Market, named after the highly successful The Willistead Restaurant that anchors the event. Their parking lot at 1840 Wyandotte Street East undergoes a patio extension for the market to include municipal sidewalks and street space.

The market operates four times per year under the authority and regulations of the AGCO (Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario). It is held on the last Friday of May, June, September and October from 4:30 p.m. to midnight.

The successful Willistead Night Market in May this year featured 29 diverse vendors, live music on stage, a DJ, children’s area, and food catered by local establishments.

Unfortunately, attendance at the June event was adversely affected by rain, but “The Willistead Night Market returns September 29 with a harvest theme and again on October 27 just in time for Oktoberfest.

Along with award winning beer from nearby Walkerville Brewery, the night market also features Snackbar-B-Q Porter and The Night Market Pale Ale brewed locally by restaurateur Mark Boscariol’s latest venture, Downtown Pizza Company. This exciting new eatery opens to the public in September in the former Chanoso’s, 255 Ouellette Avenue. (Note: Boscariol owns Snackbar-B-Q; The Willistead Restaurant and Downtown Pizza Company).

The Willistead Night Market space has a capacity of 1,000 although 5,000 patrons come and go throughout the evening. Local businesses see a 30% increase in their sales on the market nights!

Each market night generates a profit of approximately $2,000 after expenses (security municipal street closure costs, barricades, fencing, porta john rentals, tents, entertainment). All profits go directly to WIFF (Windsor International Film Festival), which Boscariol helped found in 2004, and which has since become the largest volunteer international film festival in all of Canada. However, like most outdoor events, there is a risk which faces each market event — the weather. As mentioned earlier, major rain dampened the festivities for this year’s June market night, turning the projected $2,000 profit into a $2,000 loss of revenue.

Though market nights are located on The Willistead Restaurant property, Boscariol quickly points out, “this is not The Willistead’s event; it is the people’s event. They’ve taken ownership and are protective over it.”

He goes on further to say, “neighbours are extremely vocal about what they want in the Market, for example children’s areas, types of vendors, hours of operation.”

I’ve attended a number of the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Markets, “Ford City Twilight Markets” and “The Willistead Night Markets” and can attest that there is a real “block party” feel to them. They are definitely family and “new-friend-making” oriented. Besides enjoying the wide array of wares being sold by vendors, food, drinks and entertainment enhance the whole experience for patrons.

For participating vendors, “The Willistead Night Market provides an excellent platform to showcase their products. Boscariol points out that, outdoor markets are business incubators that allow a number of vendors to go on to become brick and mortar business establishments.”

And that is a win-win for us all! Get the latest details on the market on Facebook under “The Willistead Night Market.