River Market is celebrating all things Canadian at its first Great Canadian Winter Festival.
With Quebec City having the Carnaval De Quebec and Ottawa having the Winterlude, River Market thinks it's only fair that New Westminster has the Great Canadian Winter Festival. From Feb. 7 to 10, the market is hosting its inaugural winter festival that features a variety of events.
Mark Shieh, director of River Market, said the market is continuing in its quest to create a public market that isn't a mall. Instead of a "transaction model" that includes a buyer and a seller who exchange money and goods for services, River Market wants to engage the community.
"What we aim to do here is more of an investment model where we see ourselves as stewards," he recently told residents attending the Quayside Community Board's annual general meeting. "We are investing a seed of something. That seed will grow up to be other things."
As an example, Shieh pointed to the ONE program, where Donald's Market contributes one per cent of every dollar members spend to a fund. Each year, ONE members nominate and vote on projects and community groups to fund through this initiative.
"You have the power to invest in our own community, your own businesses," Shieh noted.
According to Shieh, the ONE program distributed $5,000 to community initiatives in 2012 and will contribute even more money to local projects again this year.
In addition to contributing to community groups and projects, River Market is also striving to build community.
Deana Lancaster, marketing manager, said River Market will continue to introduce culture and community events, and strive to bring more people into the market.
"We want to engage," she said. "We want to bring the community into the market so it's not a mall."
River Market's 2013 goals include adding more retail offerings, making better use of its kiosks and making the market more family friendly. Yoga at lunchtime and kids' baking classes are among the market's latest offerings.
"One of our biggest goals is to have more people come to the market to visit," Lancaster said.
The Great Canadian Winter Festival features a variety of special events to entice people into the market, including a special Canadian-themed edition of the Say Wha? comedy show.
Since Sara Bynoe launched Say Wha? in June 2010, it's been in the Vancouver Comedy Festival, the Vancouver International Poetry Festival and the Olio Festival. Tickets are $15 and the event takes place on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7: 30 p.m.
Music Box Music and Theatre Academy will offer a free performance this Friday from noon to 12: 30 p.m. Music Box director Vashti Fairbairn (piano and accordion) will accompany Renee Bulat (violin and vocals) for this performance of Canadian music.
With Valentine's Day not far away, the Great Canadian Winter Festival will include 29 Valentines Speed Dating, also on Friday at 7 p.m. in Wild Rice restaurant. The $20 ticket price includes 15 speedy dates, two cocktails, snacks and fun.
The 29 Valentines Speed Dating event is open to women aged 23 to 33 and men aged 25 to 35. It begins with drinks and a game to break the ice, followed by four minutes with each date.
River Market will also celebrate the Year of the Snake with Chinese New Year dinners at Wild Rice. Between Feb. 8 and 10, two can dine for $38.88 on meals inspired by classic Chinese feasts.
River Market is offering a number of events this weekend as part of its Great Canadian Westminster festival, including an artisan market (Saturday and Sunday), live ice carving (Saturday, Feb. 9 at noon), a demonstration by the Vancouver Circus School (Saturday at 1 p.m.). The Paddlewheeler Pub invites people to drop by and watch the Canucks take on the Calgary Flames on Saturday night and try to win prizes such as Canucks game tickets and jerseys.
And what Canadian-themed festival would be complete without some sort of hockey event? Hockey Radar, taking place on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., gives people a chance to shoot the puck into an inflatable gallery, measure the speed of their slapshot and try to win prizes for the fastest shot in several age categories.
River Market is wrapping up the Great Canadian Winter Festival with a Sunday Supper at 6: 30 p.m. Tickets for the event, a fundraiser for Fraser River Discovery Centre, are $20 and feature a meal by Re-Up BBQ.
For more information about River Market, visit www.rivermarket.ca.