Saturday marks the beginning of a cozy winter festival in Old Strathcona aimed at getting Edmontonians out of the house to support local businesses.
The second annual Sweet Treats & Latte Festival is all about coffee, hot drinks and desserts. Throughout the month of February, 17 participating Old Strathcona bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants will offer special menu items that cost around $5 or $6.
“It’s really focused on all the incredible and growing numbers of bakeries, cafes, ice cream shops — anything sweet — in Old Strathcona,” said Old Strathcona Business Association executive director Cherie Klassen.
While there were some flurries in Edmonton on Saturday, the temperatures are warming up throughout the week. What better way to get out and enjoy winter in Edmonton than with a warm treat.
“This is an important event to really highlight what makes Edmonton and what makes Old Strathcona and Whyte Avenue unique. We’re a winter city, we’ve got to embrace it. So we’re just trying to find a way to incentivize people to come out and support those businesses and also just enjoy your city,” Klassen said.
“We’ve been kind of stuck inside for so, so long and this is a way to discover your neighbourhood and discover your city, maybe in ways you haven’t before.”
The festival started last year as a way to get people out of their houses, particularly during COVID-19 restrictions. It’s also meant to help boost local business during a typically slower time of year.
This year, nine new businesses are participating. Seven of the participating businesses found new homes in Old Strathcona just last year.
“This is our slowest time of the year, coldest time of the year and we just tried to think of something really creative that would encourage folks to come out to Old Strathcona and take in something warm and sweet,” Klassen said.
The start of the festival coincides with the end of Ice on Whyte, which wraps up this weekend. The second week of the Sweet Treats & Latte Festival will also include some art installations.
Throughout the festival, people are encouraged to snap pics with their treats and share them on social media using the hashtag #SweetTreatsYEG.
The festival comes after a tough couple of years for local businesses, which have had to weather COVID-19 public safety restrictions.
Earlier this week, Premier Jason Kenney announced his government would outline next week the path forward to the end of public health measures in Alberta, including the removal of the Restrictions Exemption Program. The REP, also known as a vaccine passport program, was put in place last September.
Klassen said while businesses want to thrive, the reaction to the premier’s announcement from the 600 businesses in the district has been mixed.
“A lot of them are still apprehensive, maybe feel like this is too soon. I think it’s fair to say all businesses want to open. They want to get fully open, they want to operate, but what they don’t want to have happen is (having) to close again,” she explained.
“We want to make sure that they can stay open and so that when it is the busy season (summer), we’re not going to be set back to more restrictions. So I think a bit apprehensive, maybe a bit excited and kind of everything in between.”
More information about the Sweet Treats & Latte Festival and participating businesses can be found on the OSBA’s website.