By Trevor Busch
The inaugural Taber Winter Festival took over the downtown streets on Nov. 15, and besides offering big savings at participating businesses, patrons and attendees were able to shop and visit with Santa Claus at the Taber Legion, take in a session at the Taber Gymnastics Club, or go swimming, bowling or ice skating for free.
Replacing the former Midnight Madness activities, the Taber Winter Festival was a joint rebranding initiative between the Town of Taber and the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce, and also featured a tree lighting ceremony in Cenotaph Park with live music from the W.R. Myers High School Band, s’mores stations served up by the Taber Youth Do Crew, and hay rides around the downtown, among other activities.
The Times asked some of the key organizers involved what had prompted the rebranding and expansion of the event, and where they hope to see it move in the future.
Town culture and events co-ordinator Emily Hembrough and chamber office manager Anne Jensen prepared some collaborative responses.
The chamber and town partnered on rebranding or expanding Midnight Madness into the Taber Winter Festival. Who took the lead on that initiative?
“The Chamber has successfully hosted Midnight Madness for many years and with the addition of the arts and culture coordinator at the Town of Taber, there is an increased capacity in the town to support local events. The town approached the chamber about adding a lighting ceremony to the event as we have been working with Communities in Bloom to add to our Christmas light collection in Confederation Park. The tree in Cenotaph Park was lit up along with all of the town’s Christmas lights for the first time at winter festival this year.”
What kinds of changes were made to the previous format, and what has now been added?
“The event has had a variety of family-friendly activities for many years, the name change now reflects that. The hope is that the name change will help to attract residents from other municipalities in southern Alberta to kick off the Christmas season with us and do some Christmas shopping as well. Gymnastics, bon fires, a lighting ceremony, outdoor music, and a new shopping incentive called the ‘Passport to Christmas’ has been added.”
“The Passport to Christmas provides shoppers with an incentive to spend locally. For every $10 spent at participating businesses shoppers receive a stamp on their passport. Completed passports can be submitted in a draw to win one of three prizes including the top prize of $1000 in Taber Chamber Bucks.”
“The passport program began the week of Taber Winter Festival on November 12, and will continue on to November 30. The draw will take place in early December to give the lucky winners a chance to finish their Christmas shopping with the Chamber Bucks. We really hope that the business community will participate in the Passport and we can build it next year.”
“The Tree Lighting Ceremony was a first for Taber, with Christmas music, Santa, and the countdown to the lighting of the tree. We were happy that the lighting ceremony got everyone to come out and see the amazing work Communities in Bloom and town crews did decking the halls in town.”
How did the town help to enhance the festival for citizens? Was there any added costs to anything that was happening?
“With the addition of the arts, culture and events coordinator this year, the town has increased capacity to assist organizations with events such as the Health and Wellness Expo and Taber Winter Festival. The ACE coordinator assisted with marketing the event, organizing the tree lighting ceremony, and providing support when requested by the chamber. There was no extra costs to anything happening, it remains a free event.”
“We also worked with the youth ‘do’ crew who so kindly made and delivered s’mores that night for a sweet treat. Our fire department was also on hand keeping things festive and selling their calendars.”
Where did this idea originate, and do you believe it was time to change things around for Midnight Madness? Will this be an ongoing event for the town and chamber?
“Midnight Madness has been a successful chamber event for several decades adding activities such as skating, bowling, and swimming in recent years. The chamber of commerce Midnight Madness committee had been considering a name change for a few years now.”
“The name change was a rebranding of the existing event to encourage more participation, this seemed like a perfect time to make the changes that had been considered for quite a while. The Town of Taber is committed to supporting the chamber to ensure continued success of the event.”
“The event was a success, and we’re very excited to see it grow and expand as the years go on. The town also appreciates what the chamber does for the community and hopes that residents support the event and shop local this Christmas season.”