Foothills markets are teaming up to become a destination for shoppers looking to get their hands on local treasures and unique finds before Christmas.
The Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society, Okotoks MarketSquare and Olde Towne Okotoks joined forces to bring together two markets and independently owned boutiques for the annual Foothills Holiday Roadshow.
This year’s event takes place Nov. 9 to 12. For $8, ticketholders gain access to the Millarville Christmas Market at the Millarville Racetrack, the Okotoks MarketSquare Christmas Festival at the Foothills Centennial Centre and Elks Hall in Okotoks and discounts at 16 Okotoks shops.
There are benefits to the partnership, said Millarville market manager Melonie McKee.
“I like that it gives it more of a destination in the southern part of Alberta and being able to hit both locations on one weekend,” she said. “Having a fourth day spreads out the crowd a little bit so it’s not as crazy as it was when it was three days.”
Most vendors at the Millarville Christmas Market make, bake and grow their products, making the market unique from most shopping experiences, said McKee.
In addition to the 260 vendors, the market offers hayrides, photos with Santa, crafts, music, reindeer, a live nativity, carolers, glassblowing demonstration, blacksmithing demonstrations, fire pits and chestnut roasting, she said.
“All the lights, the Christmas carols and atmosphere really bring out the country market setting,” said McKee.
Youngsters can shop at a children’s-only shopping tent at the south end of the grounds. Volunteers help the children select gifts on their lists and wrap them.
The market is open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In Okotoks, more than 175 vendors will be stationed at the Foothills Centennial Centre and Elks Hall Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vendors offer a range of wares including woodwork, glasswork, leather, jewelry and clothing, said organizer Andrea Wilton-Clark.
“We really screen our vendors so we truly get the best of the best for southern Alberta,” she said. “We had twice as many applications within a week than we could accommodate.”
To give shoppers more variety, the market expanded to the Elks Hall in Okotoks downtown near the 16 participating boutiques, said Wilton-Clark.
“We are really bursting at the seams,” she said. “We thought what do we do in the future to facilitate growth. People suggested Calgary but we are local and we want to promote Okotoks and our local businesses and we decided that is not a good option for us.”
The Christmas festival at the centennial centre features pictures with Santa at his workshop, live caroling and childcare services, where youngsters can enjoy crafts and decorating cookies.
Wilton-Clark said the Foothills Holiday Roadshow is a great partnership for MarketSquare.
“The idea behind it is to promote the region and promote it as the biggest and best collaboration of markets and shopping in the Foothills,” she said. “The intent was to capitalize on the people who are already going to Millarville and coming to Okotoks and really make it a regional experience and targeting the Calgary population while getting local businesses involved.”
A portion of the proceeds from MarketSquare’s pictures with Santa, donations for childcare and $1 from admission goes to the Okotoks Food Bank. Wilton-Clark said, adding $10,000 was raised last year and she hopes to see that raised again.
Passes cost $8 and must be purchased in advance at Sobeys, participating downtown businesses or foothillsholidayroadshow.ca. Approximately 5,000 were sold last year.
Admission to attend the two markets is $5 each without a pass.