Banff is decking the halls, preparing to host Christmas after COVID-19 put the brakes on holiday events last year.
The Banff Christmas Market kicked off its first of two weekends on Friday. The event did not take place in 2020, taking a big bite out of vendors’ bottom lines.
“We had a big loss last year in our business,” said Margaret Zabielska, who runs Gosia’s Perogies. “We rely on Christmas markets and Banff was one of our biggest markets. We are very happy to be back.”
“It’s just fantastic. We look forward to the Banff market more than any other market,” added Marvin Gill of Field Stone Winery. “Our Christmas markets make up to 40 per cent of our sales, so it’s big.”
Jolene Brewster, founder of the Banff Christmas Market, said they went into this year knowing there was a chance they’d have to pull the plug. She said the vendors were supportive of taking the risk.
“We are elated,” she said. “We are loving every moment and bringing out our décor to the fullest.
“We were actually sold out for vendors by the end of summer, which has never happened before, with a long wait list. Everyone was excited to come back to the market.”
The Christmas spirit is spreading throughout the town as the Fairmont Banff Springs is also being draped in ribbon-clad garland and stunning, skyscraping trees.
“We’ve come a long way. We are very pleased with where we are now. It’s much different than last Christmas,” said hotel manager David Garcelon.
Some international bookings are even coming back, he added.
“Levels will be similar to what they were in 2019.”
The Fairmont, also lovingly called The Castle by many, is a quintessential Christmas destination. Events and attractions range from festive teas and brunches, an outdoor glass dining area, dinner at Santa’s and new this year, a pop-up bar called The Thirsty Reindeer dripping in Christmas décor.
While there is a cautious optimism among many businesses that were hit extremely hard by the pandemic, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism said there are still challenges in getting everyone back to Banff.
“They are booking,” Angela Anderson said. “We are hearing ski bookings are looking really good. We’ll see what comes through.
“There’s still specific testing requirements to come into Canada that can be costly for families, but it’s definitely starting.”
Despite huge efforts, an annual parade was cancelled again due to COVID-19. But a light display called “In Search of Christmas Spirit” is returning.