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What if Kingston…

wet weather venueLast weekend, Confederation Park and Market Square played host to the Kingston Multicultural Arts Festival, Fare on the Square as well as the regular Farmer’s Market. All of these activities have grown in size and popularity over the past few years, which is a testament to the good work being done by organizers and vendors, and the strength of the local food movement. In spite of past successes, organizers were less than thrilled with Saturday’s events, which were severely impacted by inclement weather. Not only was attendance of hungry and curious Kingstonians way down, but the number of vendors for both Fare on the Square and the Farmer’s Market was significantly less than it has been in the past. As these events were scheduled to take place rain or shine, there was no chance to take advantage of the improved conditions that arrived on Sunday. This got me thinking about how the City of Kingston could safeguard such outdoor events from the elements. What if Kingston could offer indoor space for outdoor events during inclement weather?

Market Square and Confederation Park are frequently used for city-wide festivals and large events throughout the course of the year.  One of the benefits these central locations offer is that they have ample, accessible space that can be configured to suit a wide variety of requirements.  Market Square can be easily transformed into an outdoor movie theatre, farmer’s market or even a skating rink, while Confederation Park can similarly suit large concerts, snow sculpture competitions, and sporting events such as the K-Town Triathlon.  But again, as Saturday’s situation proved, outdoor events such as these are susceptible to the elements.  Speaking with disappointed organizers and attendees, many were frustrated about about the lack of alternate arrangements, be that indoor facilities or the ability to reschedule to a later date.  It was disappointing to say the least, and I’m not convinced it was entirely necessary.

Thinking about ready-made solutions available in other Canadian cities, Kitchener, Quebec City, and of course Toronto come to mind as they all have year-round indoor public markets, which provide the ability to shop for seasonal produce and local delicacies in a climate controlled environment.  These facilities could all serve as alternate venues for smaller outdoor activities in the event of inclement weather.  Having said that, I sincerely doubt a lot of residents in the Limestone City would be willing to permanently move the historic downtown market or the newly formed one at the Memorial Centre indoors.  More importantly, where would you build an indoor public market, or get the funds for such a project?  This may be a bridge too far in many respects, but perhaps recent rumours about a combined casino and convention centre on North Block hint that such a project isn’t too far out in left field.

Rather than commit city funds to build a shiny new facility for an indoor market or a convention centre, perhaps the best rainy day solution for outdoor events involves better utilization of the facilities we’ve already got in place.  Save for the fact that preparations were being made for Russel Peters’ show at the K-Rock Centre on Saturday, parts of the Kingston Multicultural Arts Festival and Fare on the Square could have been reloated inside the KRC.  The main floor of the facility would likely have been out of bounds due to the seating setup for the evening’s show, but the outer ring would likely have afforded ample space and shelter, electrical hookups and a more attractive atmosphere for attendees who wanted to avoid soggy elements.  The same sort of arrangements could be made for events taking place in the vicinity of the Memorial Centre.  Why not move the farmer’s market inside on days when skies are gray?

Letting out the KRC or the Memorial Centre on rainy days might be the closest thing we have to a solution in the near term, but use of these facilities has a price tag attached.  Keeping the lights on, ensuring that the heat/AC are just right, as well as providing staff to ensure things are operating smoothly all come with a cost.  Even so, at the end of the day, I think the City could easily justify the extra cost in order to ensure that events, which took months of preparation and planning, are not spoiled by mother nature.  Supporting local events, rain or shine, helps create a better community that we can all benefit from.

What are your thoughts on using the KRC or the M-Centre as alternate venues for events that could be ruined by inclement weather?  Would you lend your support to a the construction of a Farmer’s Market or Convention Centre, which could also be used as a “plan b” location for outdoor events?  Drop off your creative solutions and comments below.

Thanks to threthny for today’s photo.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

2 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • September 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm
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    my question is, the farmers market which has been around for hundreds of years, was in place for local private farmers to showcase there wares at a reasonable or less then corporate price. my friend went down last week and purchased 5 tomatoes for just under 10$ as well as a handful of potatoes for a little less. a few of us from work who have been there in the last couple years, seem to agree on a couple things. the prices are outrageous when you can buy cheaper "organic" food from a grocery store, and that springer market square has just turned into pretentious and sort of "be seen here" crowd. i realize prices rise over time but before the "springer" i remember Kingston "market square" with Superior value, and not to mention more family oriented suppliers.
    what has changed?

    • October 2, 2012 at 9:17 am
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      I have noticed the same thing, but not necessarily across the board. When certain produce is in season, there are definitely deals to be had at both the Market Square and M-Centre markets. I find the stuff that's imported from way outside of the local area (ie Niagara grapes), and other products that require processing (spreads etc…) have hefty price tags as well.

      On another note, big businesses have greater purchasing power than the little/local growers, and therefore they can offer better deals at the grocery store. In the end, the extra you pay at the market goes back to local growers, which is a driving force for many who support the market.

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