West Coast residents will kick off their holiday shopping sprees with a festive bang this weekend as Midnight Madness cheers through Ucluelet.
Local stores will stay open late, offering happy patrons a bevvy of bargains and ample Christmas merriment on Nov. 29.
“This type of event is great for both communities, shopping locally not only brings our community together during the holidays, but our environmental impact is reduced,” municipal councillor and Ucluelet chamber of commerce manager Lara Kemps told the Westerly News. “It provides a local economic stimulus and as we all see by our local businesses, they invest in our community. This is just another great reason for the citizens of our community to come together and celebrate the joys of living on our beautiful coast.”
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel assured he will be one of the night’s many revellers and he’s excited to see what the town’s unique shops have in store.
“It’s a rite of passage for our community. It happens every year and we always look forward to it…Everybody’s cheery and merry and it’s just a real celebration that Christmas is upon us,” Noel told the Westerly. “Our community is full of entrepreneurs and this is one night that they really get to showcase some of the great things they’re doing.”
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns told the Westerly that Midnight Madness is an important event both socially and economically.
“It’s always about the West Coast and keeping our dollars on the West Coast,” Johns said. “It’s about the West Coast coming together to support local businesses, making sure they get through the winter and thrive. That’s something that I think we all understand is really important. Small business is the job creator and the economic driver of the West Coast.”
Johns added he was happy to see Ucluelet’s Midnight Madness event scheduled the weekend before Tofino’s similar Jingle Into Christmas shopping extravaganza, after both events were held on the same day last year.
“It’s better when they’re different weekend so that people in Tofino can support people in Ucluelet and people in Ucluelet can support people in Tofino,” he said.
Jan Draeseke, a Midnight Madness pioneer and the owner of Ucluelet’s longest-running store, The Crow’s Nest, said merchants are annually thrilled with the opportunity to offer great deals to locals.
“It gets everybody in the community out and about to all the different stores, there’s lots of socializing, the kids get to stay out late, it’s fun, it’s festive, it’s a tradition,” she said. “It’s really about the local community and businesses being able to give back to the people who live here.”
Draeseke said the spirit of the shopping spree has stayed strong over the years, though online and out-of-town draws have lured local dollars, causing an unfortunately draining impact.
“It’s not quite as busy as it used to be because people are focused on out of town shopping more than they used to be,” she said. “People always used to shop locally, now they do that less.”
She hopes to see shoppers revitalize their commitment to their community’s merchants and entrepreneurs.
“When you shop locally, you’re dealing with somebody that you know. If you have a problem with an item, you go back to the store. When you walk into the store, you get personalized service; people greet you they say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ You have a little gossip with them about their lives and it creates community,” she said. “Community is what we enjoy in a town like Ucluelet, where people get to interact at the Co-op, at the post office, in the stores, walking the trails; you see each other and you stop and you talk and you interact. It gives a quality of life that is not available to people living in large urban centres and it’s what makes living here magical.”
Gypsy Drifter owner Nicola Buston is excitedly preparing for her store’s fourth Midnight Madness experience and said she’s looking forward to seeing all the smiling faces the event induces.
“The community all taking part in it and everyone being able to come together and celebrate the upcoming holiday season,” she said.
Susan Lee of Blackberry Cove Marketplace said the festive event brings shoppers into stores that might not yet be part of their local shopping routine.
“It’s one of the things that makes living here special,” she said. “It’s such a community event. It’s an opportunity for folks to get out and have fun with other folks and support the businesses. I love it because it’s a fun night for me as a store owner and I get to meet people I don’t see all the time, so it’s a way to introduce people to the store.”
Kristen O’Keefe will be celebrating her third Midnight Madness event at The Den.
“Midnight Madness to me is so awesome because it’s locals supporting locals and we’re all shopping local. It’s rad,” she said. “It is about supporting one another in our businesses and also helping local artists thrive in our community.”
She added that shopping locally also helps support the environment.
“It reduces your carbon footprint to shop locally and also you’re able to purchase all package-free and save on single use items like plastic and unnecessary packaging,” she said.
Alison Dahlie has enjoyed Midnight Madness at her store The Wreckage twice before, but this will be her first time hosting the event at Murray’s Grocery, which she purchased earlier this year. The two stores neighbour each other on Peninsula Road and Dahlie said the celebration will be amalgamated inside Murray’s.
“I will be selling off a bunch of my stuff from The Wreckage. I have a lot of stock I want to move, so there will be deals on that and I have a bunch of new stock that I’ll showcase that night as well,” she said. “It invites people out and we get people shopping and out on the town who would maybe not normally be coming by. So, it’s a nice opportunity to have people come in and see what’s new and what’s happening. It brings the town together and the stores together. All the merchants are doing this together. We’re all on the same page for that night, so that’s pretty cool and it’s just fun.”
Longtime Midnight Madness enthusiast Sandra Leslie said it’s vital for Ucluelet to support its vibrant and diverse local merchant community.
“If we didn’t support these stores, we wouldn’t have anything in our towns that wasn’t just junk and cheap stuff and not individual,” she said.
Friday night’s celebration won’t be contained to just stores, as the Ucluelet Aquarium will be in on the fun as well, staying open late into the evening and welcoming ocean animal enthusiasts to a festive quiz and skill testing questions where answers will earn discounts at the gift shop.
“We also have some wonderful volunteers and interpreters here if you’re interested in seeing the aquarium one last time before we shut down on Nov. 30,” said aquarium curator Laura Griffith-Cochrane.
She said the aquarium is happy to be an annual participant in the festive night.
“We really love Midnight Madness. I think it’s a really cool community event. It’s fun to see everyone and it’s just fun to be part of the community and support this big event. It’s fun for us and it’s a nice opportunity to give one last chance for people to see everything and celebrate a really great year,” she said. “
“Because we got so much support from the community to make this place happen, it’s important that we support the community in all of its other projects. That we give back. I see [Midnight Madness] as a way we can give back and thank the community for all that they gave us.”
Tofino’s Jingle into Christmas event will run the following weekend. Read about it in next week’s Westerly News.