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Open City recap

Successful event leads to plans for repeats.


Gordon Stevens
  • Gordon Stevens
On May 12 and 13, Halifax hosted Open City, the weekend event where local businesses graciously welcomed all Nova Scotians to discounts, deals and demos. The special occasion was one-of-a-kind, as nothing like it happens in North America. We predicted that it would astound you, and judging by social media reactions, it did. Even Gordon Stevens, president of The Uncommon Group and organizer of Open City, was impressed by the turnout. “We didn’t have any expectations, but if we did, they were blown away,” said Stevens.

The feedback on Twitter ranged from customers delighted over their cheap meals, to others who were simply impressed with the Open City concept. Little Halifax even got “#OpenCity” trending at the national level, which isn’t done often by small Canadian cities. Stevens says that besides positive-heavy comments on Twitter, he heard fantastic feedback in person from customers and business owners alike. “People said they felt a change in the mood of the city, which is what we were looking for. Others said Halifax felt like San Antonio or made other big city comparisons. Most importantly, it felt like the community came together.”

The vibrancy and atmosphere of Halifax this weekend is enough evidence to conclude that Open City was a smash success. One of the most impressive aspects of the event, which was basically a trial run, was how everything happened effortlessly smooth. “No problems occurred,” says Stevens. He explained that even when restaurants ran out of food, people were kicking themselves in the butt for not arriving earlier, rather than being upset with the businesses. “Restaurants worked really hard, especially because they had no way to gauge how busy it would be. Next year, they can prepare for more people.”

Another minor change will be the addition of printed lists of participating locations and their activities throughout the city. The lists will be printed earlier too, giving participants more time to prepare. Stevens also hopes more businesses get involved next time around, so the reach and growth is expanded even farther into light traffic areas. “Some neighbourhoods didn’t have a nucleus of things to draw crowds,” he says.

As far as future plans go, Stevens says, “Expect another Open City around the same time next year, 100 percent.” I LOVE LOCAL is also discussing the possibility of a second Open City in October, in spirit of the harvest and holidays. It would have to be squeezed between Nocturne and Halloween, but would likely result in the most culturally diverse autumn that Halifax has ever seen.

Overall, the event premiere was beyond successful, and Stevens wants to encourage people to come into the city more often. “There was little to experience this weekend that can’t be experienced all year round,” he explained. Even parking is free at meters on weekends. You have no more excuses, HRM.


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