Reported by Chelsea Powrie
It may not be snowing in Vancouver, but the spirit of giving has still arrived on West 4th Avenue with Kitsmas.
Kitsmas was created by Kitsilano 4th Avenue Business Association and this is their first annual seasonal celebration. The association wanted to encourage local shopping while cutting down on the stress of the Christmas season. They are providing by-donation valet parking Thursday through Saturday until Christmas Day, with proceeds going to Canuck Place. Red mailboxes labeled “Letters for Santa” have been placed along Fourth Avenue, and branches of mistletoe have been hung on every block and distributed to every business.
“I like the surprise, I like the magic of Christmas and it’s coming through, and I love that,” said Jane McFadden, the executive director of the Kitsilano 4th Avenue Business Association. “It provides that cohesiveness for the neighbourhood that I really like.”
Signed, stamped and delivered to the North Pole
McFadden’s favourite part so far has been the letters to Santa.
“I’m kind of in love with the mailboxes. Every day I take the letters out and actually mail them to Santa, so I kind of feel like an elf,” Mcfadden said.
Michael Niemeyer is a Kitsilano resident who saw the Santa mailboxes in passing today, and stopped to take a picture. He says he’ll come back to involve his family in the Kitsmas experience.
“I was intrigued by it and thought to myself ‘Well, I should see what that is,’ especially for the kids because I have two small kids. I was thinking about getting the kids to write something [to Santa],” Niemeyer said.
Elizabeth Petaske, who manages Escents Aromatherapy, which has a Santa mailbox right out front, says she’s noticed plenty of people stopping to take a photo of the mailbox, and asking her for more information.
“We’ve heard ‘This is such a cute idea, we’ve never seen this before!’” Petaske said. “The mailboxes are so adorable, I’m really glad we have one in front of our store.”
Valet parking gives back
Petaske also mentioned that the by-donation valet parking was something that draws customers in since all the proceeds go towards a local charity, Canuck Place.
“It’s huge, because that’s what we hear most from our guests, that there’s nowhere to park. If they can come in on a weekend and have a good two hours where they don’t have to worry, that’s fantastic,” Petaske said.
Cameron Critchow, one of the valet drivers, said he has heard good feedback from pedestrians passing by. But some drivers have been annoyed that the valet stand is taking up two metered parking stops, and not everyone believes the valet program is legitimate.
“I’ve had six or seven people accuse us of just putting those signs up there,” Critchow said. “There’s quite a bit of question about the validity.”
Taylor Allan works at a ski and snowboard shop at West 4th Avenue and Burrard Street that has a Santa mailbox out front, as well as a ski lift chair with mistletoe that patrons can sit in and take a photo. He says he hasn’t noticed a particular jump in business since Kitsmas began, but he’s seen plenty of people enjoying the attractions outside.
“I’ve noticed tons of kid pointing at the mailbox. And I’ve spotted some people smooching on the chair and taking pictures,” Allan said. “And a couple customers have said they’re [going to] bring their kids back to send a letter to Santa.”