Shoppers browse at twilight during Leon Night Market

Posted by on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 at 4:45pm.

Dusk seems to bring a mystic atmosphere to an otherwise ordinary shopping experience so the City of Kelowna is going to give it a try.

The first Leon Night Market took place earlier in March, following a trend that seems to work in plenty of other cities.

Twilight markets in Australia’s costal tourist meccas are bustling with vendors offering their wares under twinkling strings of lights and a gentle evening breeze.  Kelowna’s a pretty cool place when the sun slides behind the mountains, so what better backdrop for shopping under the stars.

Leon Night Market was recently attended by about 2,000 people and organizers hope to make it a once a month event from now to October, weather permitting.

Leon has a reputation of being a place where homeless people like to hang out but organizers hope to bring the crowds down for a healthy dose of culture and commerce, supporting local merchants.

The first evening market seemed to have food trucks on the menu but as enthusiasm for the project buildings, it’s hoped that musicians will arrive; artists will set up booths and surround streets closed off, with the permission of the City of Kelowna, as the market expands and demand for stall space increases.

The group involved wants to make the Okanagan Valley’s first market of its time a tourist attraction and a destination for residents throughout the area.

For 2,000 to come out on a chilly spring-ish evening in march is encouraging and as word spreads and the weather warms, the Leon Night market can only get more interesting and more attractive.

There are many reasons why this market is a good idea, from a downtown point of view, in this specific location.  Leon Avenue has been virtually ignored in the past few years and while parts of downtown Kelowna have seen vigorous construction and revitalization, this street lags behind. New development may be years away, but in the meantime steps have to be taken to bring positive energy and positive people to this area.  This needs to take place before a developer can even think of investing in this area.

In addition to a cool, evening kind of street vibe, a night market is typically after local trading hours and as one organizer says, it’s a fusion of four things:  food, fashion, art and a lot of fun.

There was a test market last fall with this latest one a second attempt or dry run.  The market was in a large parking lot next to Habitat, an entertainment venue.  There is a large indoor garage next to this area that could also absorb some of the market’s activities if needs be.  The alley that connects Bernard with Leon Avenue could be a short cut to the market, bringing traffic from the downtown core but many have surmised that this alley needs to be spruced up a bit, perhaps with murals or plants and extra lighting to make it feel safe for pedestrians.

So far, the schedule sees the Leon Night Market operating on the 3rd Thursday of the month and after the Victoria Day Long Weekend, maybe even more frequently when tourism in the Okanagan really gets rolling.

Organizers might incorporate some themes into the Night Market, such as Oktoberfest.

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