June 12, 2024
People dancing on Queen St. in Hespeler on Sat., Sept. 24. 2022. Photo by Russel Evans

The fall season is officially here, bringing us a change in foliage and wetter, cooler weather. It also brings the end of weekend road closures on sections of the main streets in Cambridge’s Hespeler and Galt neighbourhoods.

The city initiative closes a portion of Queen St. E between Adam St. and Tannery St. in Hespeler, as well as Main St. between Water St. and Ainslie St. in Galt for vehicle traffic, making the areas pedestrian only. In Galt, the small portion of Main St. is closed seven days a week from May 20 to Oct. 10, while Queen St. is only closed between Friday and Sunday from June 3 to Oct. 9.

This will likely come as good news for drivers trying to navigate through the two cores; though, it must be said, that the detour routes never caused much of an excessive backup. However, the program has also reinvigorated a sense of community, especially in Hespeler.

As a long-time resident of Hespeler Village, I’ve seen many businesses – particularly restaurants – come and go along Queen St, the centre of the small village’s downtown area. Hespeler Village on a Friday or Saturday night was – up until the last couple of years – not nearly as lively as Cambridge’s other two former municipalities, Preston and Galt.

Fast forward to the night of Saturday, Sept. 24. It’s raining, albeit lightly so. The temperature is dropping into the single digits. Regardless, dozens of residents have made their way onto the street to have a dance party at a street event put on by Queen Latin Music. This was their last outdoor event of the year. Around 50 people attended on Saturday, a high turnout given the small space and the conditions. The New York and the Aging Oak, the two bars within the pedestrian-only zone, have live music and both venues are well-attended.

This is a sort of energy and vibrance that one never really felt in Hespeler, despite all its small-town charm, until the introduction of the on-street patio program in the summer of 2020. The program was initially conceived to help businesses – especially restaurants – that were most heavily impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. Now in 2022, as Ontario is a long way removed from the days of lockdowns and indoor dining restrictions, the on-street patio brings new life to what was once perhaps Cambridge’s least exciting neighbourhood. The program should be continued next year and for more to come, more for the benefit of the community than business at this point.

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