A festive favourite is returning to the Foothills in full form.
Spruce Meadows Christmas Market is back to full size this year for three weekends, starting Nov. 18-20, with new additions to programming.
“It’s really to try and emulate the Christmas markets we see in Europe, and the feel where you’re walking around different booths, where you’re outside and there’s firepits and chestnuts,” said Spruce Meadows president Linda Southern-Heathcott, adding the initiative started over 20 years ago. “To create that really special magic of Christmas.”
With the pandemic cancelling the 2020 market season and restrictions continuing the year after, the world-class equestrian facility is ready to flourish for 2022.
“It’s terrific for many people, including Spruce Meadows, coming back from the pandemic hasn’t been easy,” Southern-Heathcott said.
“I feel like everyone’s really picking up momentum; there’s a great enthusiasm in the city, there’s a great enthusiasm with our team to be able to welcome the public, our visitors and our vendors to Spruce Meadows and be able to offer what we saw in the past.”
That includes a return to the full-scale market, occupying indoor and outdoor areas of the sprawling venue.
“We’re super excited because we have an expanded footprint this year back to what it has been in the past, the vendors are excited to be coming, we have lots of activities, we have singers and musicians,” said Southern-Heathcott. “We're supporting local, so we have a big buy-local campaign and we have over 300 vendors.”
The other part of the atmosphere equation, the live entertainment, has now been shifted to roving performers, with the large stage that in past years occupied room in the Equi-Plex building removed to make way for more vendors.
“We’re trying to get as many vendors in as possible, so all of our entertainment will be roaming throughout the facility,” Southern-Heathcott said.
“It’s a very festive atmosphere and we have a good schedule of different singers and entertainment, we have the youth singers, we have the Zenergy Quartet, all sorts of entertainment throughout the week.”
Another new addition to the market this year will let shoppers check another off their holiday to-do list.
“One of the other things we’re offering this year is you can get your Christmas tree, they’ll be selling those as well at the Christmas market,” said Southern-Heathcott.
Different days will have different perks, with late Friday hours and familiar furry faces making an appearance on Sundays.
“Friday nights will be open late at 9 o’clock, to create that special atmosphere, and some people like to use it as their date night,” said Southern-Heathcott, adding the former Reindeer Alley is now the Winter Wonderland.
“The reindeer, of course, have a number of commitments and Santa has a lot of places to go with them, so Santa’s only be able to bring the reindeer every Sunday, so we’re turning Reindeer Alley into a family area with a petting zoo, and lots of activities for the families.”
Winter Wonderland will offer numerous family-oriented activities such as a petting zoo, Santa’s Elves, crafting stations, as well as a soft play zone, calm zone for Christmas stories, a mother/baby area, and a pocket money shop with items under $5.
The reindeer will be at the Riding Hall each Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Overall, it will be a great experience with lots of atmosphere for everybody,” Heathcott Southern said.
Parking has been streamlined, with the fee now rolled into the ticket price, and options for closer parking, while the shuttle is no longer being offered.
“We’re trying to make it easier for the people that want to come shop, so the ticket price has gone up slightly but that’s also including parking,” Heathcott-Southern said. “You buy one ticket, you have better access, there will be parking in a couple of different areas.
“We’re hoping that it really does help with the flow of traffic.”
The market runs Nov. 18-20, 25-27 and Dec. 2-4 and is open Fridays 12 to 9 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For tickets or more information, visit sprucemeadows.com/christmasmarket
The web page strongly advises pre-purchasing tickets prior to arrival.