Your small town can bring more people downtown this winter
Community is at the heart of your town’s success.
Inviting spaces draw people in, no matter the weather. Winter months bring a great opportunity for downtowns to be creative and fun. When you focus on community building, everybody wins. Full scale Winter Carnivals are not always manageable for smaller towns with fewer resources. Here are some creative placemaking ideas to bring people downtown all winter long!
The impact is so much greater when a majority of shops and businesses come on board to showcase your downtown as an exciting place to be. Consider a theme that can be used in decorating and displays and that also works well for social media and marketing: #ColdIsCool / #DressedUpForWinter / #White&Bright
Unveil your theme with a ‘Winter Walk’ event
Have your community vote on favorite downtown window and store-front displays in a variety of categories. BIA or Chamber of Commerce sponsored prizes can be awarded from ballots submitted (and businesses can be up for prizes as well – to encourage full participation). Get people circulating and watch the downtown ‘buzz’ build!
Stage outdoor ‘photos booths’ or ‘selfie stops’
These can be set up quickly and inexpensively with simple designs on plywood or coroplast and propped against a wall (held in place with a couple of outdoor planters). Ramp up the fun with a bucket of photo prop sticks (fake mustaches, crazy glasses etc). Remember to put your winter hash-tag theme on the photo booths and track the social media posts!
Host a ‘Winter Warm Up’
Get cafes and restaurants on board to offer up samples of chili or soup. Shops can provide hot drinks and treats. This can be done for a nominal charge or can be organized as a tasting event or even a contest. Your downtown community may decide to run this type of event as a fundraiser for a food bank or other local charity.
Enhance the sidewalks with winter sculptures
In cold and snowy regions, many communities put ice or snow sculptures on display. Some towns contract it out to professionals, while others will organize a community run event. In either case, the goal is to create a winter display that gets people excited to see more by exploring the entire downtown core.
Tree or Pole wraps
In milder areas or those with a lack of snow, try covering downtown tree trunks or poles in bright fabric wraps. This can be done with knitted or with felt fabrics that cling to the trees. Determine a colour scheme and get the community involved in the knitting! Fabric wraps (also called yarn bombs) are temporary and do not hurt the trees. Many examples on the internet will get you inspired.
The Big Snow Slide
Downtowns situated on hills have the advantage of a natural slope for a winter slide. Block off your street to cars and bring in enough snow to create a smooth, slippery surface. Volunteers can help monitor line-ups and families can descend without the need for sleds. Hay bales at the bottom ensure a safe and soft landing!
There’s no shortage of fun outdoor winter sports that can attract both participants and spectators. Don’t have an ice rink? Think ball hockey, broom-ball or snow baseball. Organize mini tournaments in a downtown parking lot or right on the street. Encourage teams to dress in crazy costumes and focus less on competition and more on fun.
An entrepreneurial spirit and love of exploring led Leslie Fournier to create Streets Alive in her downtown core. This unique placemaking program brings public spaces to life with interactive art and activity. The Streets Alive story has been featured in national publications and Leslie has been recognized as Citizen of the Year and Business Woman of the Year for the impact and success of these projects. She speaks to BIA’s, tourism groups, cultural summits and economic development conferences on how to attract visitors and shoppers with creative placemaking. As a small town retailer for over 15 years, Leslie understands the challenges faced by local businesses and the increasing importance for every community to create a strong, vibrant sense of place. Follow along with Leslie on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.