The start of the holiday season is usually marked by snowfall, Christmas music all over the radio stations, and people rushing to malls for their holiday shopping.
This year, however, the spirit of the holidays is sparkling in the nearby village of St. Jacobs, Ontario.
From Nov. 12 to 28, the annual St. Jacob Sparkles takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with more dates, activities, and longer hours to get some Christmas shopping done this season.
“We’re really lucky this year because it’s the first full-blown event we’ve had since the COVID pandemic started,” said Lea Riddle-Pitre, the store manager of Taste The 4th Sense, a gourmet hot sauce and condiments store located in St. Jacobs. “It brings in a lot of people to the village.”
The event features many activities in addition to the village stores, including live music, horse-drawn trolley rides, and Santa Claus.
At night, attendees can immerse themselves in the special seasonal lights of St. Jacobs village.
The event has been running for more than 20 years, and it provides a boost in business for the small, unique shops and stores in the St. Jacobs area.
“This year it’s a lot more relaxed; it was very uptight last year,” said Tim Henneberry, owner of a clothing store in St. Jacobs, Fog Off Clothing Co., which donates a portion of its profits to mental health associations and initiatives across Canada. “I think we’re going to see a lot more foot traffic with people having the vaccine.”
Many businesses were profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years, and the message of ‘shop local’ is encouraged now more than ever. St. Jacobs Sparkles offers a way to support local and get holiday shopping done all at once.
“I have noticed when people are coming in and they see our ‘Canadian’ [products] section, they’ll go to that first,” Riddle-Pitre said. “So, it’s quite obvious that people are trying to support local businesses.”
For those who rely on public transit, there are bus routes available that go straight into the St. Jacobs village from Kitchener, or the Ion light rail is an option, which will go as far as Northfield Dr., a 20 min bus ride from the village.
The St. Jacobs Sparkles event and the village has grown from what it was when it started out, and many see potential for even more expansion.
“New shops like mine are opening up here … and so when people come, they see new stores, and more options for them,” said Henneberry.