Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The City of Cambridge’s holiday season is packed with an array of unforgettable sights and lights thanks to Winterfest.

 

Previously known as ‘Christmas in Cambridge’, the festival – which runs until Dec. 31 - offers a wide range of activities and events to entice people to visit the downtown cores of Galt, Preston and Hespeler, providing a valuable opportunity to check out local businesses.

 

“The festival takes place in all three downtown cores which brings prosperity to all three,” says Leanne Bond, Recreation Co-ordinator, Special Events for the City of Cambridge.

 

She says many of businesses are extending their hours to ensure festivalgoers get the chance to check out what the downtown cores have to offer.

 

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher says the festival is a great opportunity for businesses to showcase themselves.

 

“More important than ever before because it’s so easy and convenient to online shop that we need to encourage people to remember they have small businesses in their communities that help build a strong economy locally and employ their friends and family,” he says. “It’s important to do what we can to support the small businesses in our community.”

 

Greg says support is especially needed since the holiday season is the most important time of the year for small businesses.

 

“Having an event like Winterfest gets people out and about, and maybe opens their eyes to opportunities where they can help a business and themselves by finding that special gift. It just makes good common sense,” he says.

 

The fun kicked off Friday night (Nov. 25) when hundreds of people took part in the annual Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night walking tour, which began with an official ‘countdown’ at City Hall followed by a leisurely stroll through Galt’s core to enjoy more than 30 light installations accompanied by the American composer’s music.

 

“We used to have it (Unsilent Night) on a Thursday night leading into our Cambridge Christmas Market, so it was two events in one,” says Leanne, noting Unsilent Night has grown exponentially so having it to kick off the month-long schedule of events made sense. Also, she says of the 37 cities hosting this event Cambridge was the only city in Canada selected.

 

“There’s some pretty good kudos with that,” says Leanne, noting the festival has been named for the past three years as one of the top 100 festivals by Festivals and Events Ontario. “We’ve really been adapting, pivoting and changing and making some big differences to the City of Cambridge and are really proud of that.”

 

Throughout the pandemic, the City of Cambridge turned to hybrid and outdoor pop-up holiday events, including the successful Winter Illumination display which saw a variety of light exhibits placed around the community, including a giant heart outside the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce office on Hespeler Road.

 

“We’re really proud of the fact we kept everything moving forward as best as we possibly could,” says Leanne, adding having an array of sponsors and community partners, including the Chamber, has been vital for the success of Winterfest. “We really couldn’t do this festival without them.”

 

Winterfest at a glance:

 

CP Holiday Train preshow (Wednesday, Nov. 30) – Starts at 3 p.m. at Malcolm Street Train Station. This event raises support for the Cambridge Food Bank.

 

Preston – Winter Ice and Lights features light displays all month in Central Park, plus a pop-up concert Thursday, Dec. 8 starting at 7 p.m.

 

Galt – Cambridge Christmas Market will feature the work of more than 60 local artisans and crafters, plus a range of live entertainment at City Hall Civic Square both days starting at noon. It takes place the weekend of Dec. 10-11 at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts and David Durward Centre.

 

Hespeler – Music and Lights in the Village takes place Friday, Dec. 2 at Town Hall, and the Idea Exchange starting at 7 p.m. and features a variety of holiday lights, tree lighting, musical entertainment, crafts, and food. (The event coincides with the village’s annual Santa Claus Parade on Saturday, Dec. 3 starting a noon.)

 

New Year’s Eve Party – Winterfest wraps up Dec. 31 by ringing in the New Year with a family skate at the Hespeler Arena from 4-8 p.m. The fun will include entertainment, games, an inflatable obstacle course and concession stand snacks.

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A shortage of rapid antigen screening kits threatens to hamper the ability of local Chambers to assist Waterloo Region businesses stay safe over the next few weeks, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Since the start of April, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province to provide free self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout our Region.

 

Since that time, more than 700,000 of the kits have been distributed, not to just to Chamber members but all SMEs with less than 150 employees. The goal of the program was to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

“Up until December, everything was running very smoothly, and people were ordering kits and they were keeping workplaces safe,” says Greg, noting a provincewide shortage has altered that at very critical time for businesses. “There are a number of workplaces that are in a very vulnerable situation that are essential and it’s very important they screen employees every couple of days. You can’t have an essential business close their doors for 14 days.”

 

The Chamber initiative, which began as a pilot program and was quickly implemented provincewide by other Chambers through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, is waiting on a delivery of approximately 150,000 of the kits to fulfill orders placed by businesses through its Chambercheck.ca portal.

 

“But the fact of the matter is we have at least 1,600 businesses who are now waiting in the cue to get their kits and we don’t have any,” says Greg, noting that leaves approximately 70,000 employees in Waterloo Region without access to rapid screening until at least mid-January.

 

“Even when we receive our order that still won’t be enough because to test that many employees we need at least 280,000 kits,” he says, explaining proper screening requirements call for employees to use the kits at least twice a week.

 

The Chamber’s last order of 50,000 kits – a week’s supply - arrived Dec. 6 and was quickly allocated to businesses or re-allocated to other businesses (including restaurants) if they were not picked up. 

 

“We know there are many workplaces that have to have them,” says Greg, adding a decision by the Province to distribute a single box of screening kits containing five tests to students over the Christmas break may not have been the best method. “It’s a great idea, but not enough has been handed out. Five tests aren’t enough and there isn’t a real strategy attached for their use and to even retain some tests for going back to school. Just handing them out is no real strategy.”

 

He says distributing through workplaces has been a great way to reach more people. 

 

“We’ve always said from the very beginning of this to the Province that about 63% of Ontarians are in workplaces so if you make rapid screening kits available for employees you have the potential to reach 63% of the population,” says Greg, noting not all employees may wish to take part in the screening program unless it was mandated. 

 

He says it would have proven cheaper for the Province to distribute more screening kits to workplaces and even curtail the resale of the kits for exorbitant amounts online.

 

“The BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), along with the Chambers, started encouraging the Province to do rapid screening in May of 2020 and it took them almost a year to get out and going because we stepped up to the plate and said we would do the pilot program,” says Greg. “We literally wrote the playbook so they could pass it on.”

 

He says running the free screening program through the Chambers has also ensured all the necessary safety protocols are followed.

 

“We have all the safeguards in place to make sure these kits are being used correctly and continue to be accessible to answer any questions if businesses have had a problem,” says Greg. “It really has been a seamless program, but now we’ve seen an unnecessary pause during the most critical time for these businesses.”

 

For information, visit Chambercheck.ca

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Have a wonderful Pancha Ganapati, a Happy Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at the Chamber

 

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Ti's the Season, according to the Auditor General. What a wonderful Christmas present to hear about the waste, when some at this Christmas will go without even a decent meal. Just ONE of the wasteful acts by Government could have made Christmas a whole lot brighter for ALL the Homeless in the Waterloo Region, for the next 25 Christmas's. Shameful and disgusting, we don't need to change the people, the people need to change their attitude, there is simply no reason to accept incompetency from elected officials, they said they would watch our money, they even took an oath to do so, now lets hold them 100% accountable to do just that.

 

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