Kaileen Shoemaker, a visitor to the Holiday Market on Old Falls Street, expressed her support saying, “I thought it was beautiful and amazing to have something like this in Niagara Falls”. However she went on to express displeasure with the lack of cooperation in creating a more festive environment, adding, “A better festive atmosphere would help bring people downtown which would ultimately bolster local businesses in the area”. Several other visitors to the Falls and the Holiday Market echoed Shoemaker’s opinion, yet the downtown still remained spiritless. Apparently the local government and businesses missed the message when they agreed to support the Niagara Holiday Market
Marc Rivers, a former resident of Niagara Falls and developer behind the Niagara Holiday Market, didn’t miss the message and put together a fabulous holiday display. Whether or not the Holiday Market proves to be success, Marc Rivers delivered on his promises. He created a unique destination with a tremendous festive atmosphere where visitors and residents could once again appreciate the holidays; an atmosphere that hasn’t existed since the days of the Festival of Lights and Lackey Plaza. However to the disappointment of many, the lack of participation from nearby local businesses and the City of Niagara Falls doomed the market to moderate, if any success. Without the joint effort of the government and local businesses, it is incredibly difficult to foster any type of significant holiday spirit. Joint cooperation is what makes magnificent expressions of the holiday spirit possible at such events as the Festival of Lights or along Center Street in the Village of Lewiston. One would think that the city would realize that its participation should extend more than writing the $450,000 check for the Holiday Market. However clearly this wasn’t the case; one could make the observation by observing the undecorated arterial thoroughfares funneling people into the Holiday Market. Could this be Pine Avenue?
Apparently local businesses were just as ignorant of the holidays as the city government was. Travel down any of the streets in downtown Niagara Falls and you may not even realize this is the “most wonderful time of year” as a result of very primitive holiday decor welcoming visitors into the city. Aside from the excitement on Old Falls Street, you might have more luck winning the New York State Lottery than finding another powerful display of holiday spirit. One would think that businesses creating the “edges”, as termed by Kevin Lynch, would join the effort in bolstering the festive atmosphere downtown. However this is not the case as Conference Center Niagara, Sheraton at the Falls, Quality Inn, and the Haunted House all remain virtually spiritless. Even Ebenezer Scrooge would be shocked by the lack of holiday spirit in downtown Niagara Falls. Where many cities have beautifully lit and decorated streets due to the participation of local businesses, downtown Niagara Falls has essentially no holiday identity! While the prosperous hotels on Rainbow Boulevard and First Street remain undecorated without the faintest hint of holiday spirit, struggling business owners on Third Street still managed to string up lights around their establishments. N.T.C.C., the organization responsible for promoting the area’s assets, worked up enough holiday spirit to decorate a tree that is sadly overshadowed by the meager traffic circle centerpiece decorations. The completely bare street-scape of Niagara Street and John B. Daly Boulevard, two MAJOR routes of entry into downtown Niagara Falls, just adds more frosting to the cake! What kind of welcome message are we giving visitors? “Welcome to Niagara Falls, Home of Scrooges”. Could this be Schoelkopf Park?
I wish I could say the lack of decorations is limited only to the downtown district but sadly this is not the case as several corridors around the city show the faintest expression of holiday spirit. Schoelkopf Park and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center both are feebly decorated without any conjoined effort despite their proximity. Pine Avenue isn’t much better with only sporadic decorations on light pools down the entire stretch. Gill Creek Park shows potential but disappoints as does Niagara Street, the thoroughfare adjacent to the park, where there is no uniform decoration on the entire street. The only bright spot is United Way’s Holiday Light display in Hyde Park that has gotten even larger than it was previously. If only the display could have been extended down Pine Avenue and concluded with a grand festive exhibition at the N.A.C.C. and Schoelkopf Park … Main Street in Niagara Falls in mid-late 20th C.
What happened to the holiday spirit that used to exist in the city even before the Festival of Lights? The days when Falls and Main Street were beautifully decorated with reefs, ribbons, and countless decorations that demanded the attention of visitors. Has Niagara Falls lost the nostalgia that has driven so many for so long? How is Marc Rivers and his Holiday Market supposed to create a festive downtown atmosphere without the joint involvement of local businesses and the government? You cannot create a holiday atmosphere without a conjoined effort where one display supplements and compliments another. The holiday decorations downtown or lack thereof should be organized in a manner where they flow together linking one display to another. In fact, this should exist all over the city! Downtown festivities and decorations should be linked together through Third Street, Main Street, and Niagara Street. These corridors should be linked at the NACC and Schoelkopf Park through Pine Avenue, Niagara Street, and Hyde Park Boulevard where they all come together at a magnificent exhibition in Hyde Park. Holiday Spirit should run like veins through the streets of Niagara Falls to various arteries such as the Niagara Holiday Market. Without joint and collaborative efforts from all parties standing to benefit from a festive atmosphere (local government, state parks, local businesses, etc) the holiday spirit sought after will only elude us once again next year. I do not intend to be the Grinch of Niagara Falls venting only to ruin the Christmas spirit that has prevailed in certain areas around the city. I only wish to invoke a new outlook and foster some new creative ideas by identifying what isn’t being done that by general consensus should be getting done. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t offer up a plan for restoring the holiday spirit throughout the city after criticizing much of the attempts. So here is my “10 Step Plan for Restoring Holiday Spirit”
- Develop a Committee of Various Private Businesses, Community Organizations, Public Officials, and Faith-Based Sector Representatives dedicated to this cause.
- Identify a series of Major Holiday Spirit Nodes
- Ex. Holiday Market, Earl Bridges Public Library, United Way Holiday Lights Drive, Schoelkoph Park and the NACC
- Identify a series of Minor Holiday Spirit Nodes
- Ex. City Market, 15th and Pine Ave, Third St and Niagara Street
- Identify a series of Major Holiday Spirit Districts
- Ex. Pine Avenue Corridor, Niagara Street Corridor, Hyde Park Blvd Stretch from Linwood Ave to Pine Avenue, Third Street
- Identify a series of Minor Holiday Spirit Districts
- Ex. Portage Road Stretch from Pine Avenue to Niagara Street, John B. Daly Blvd, Walnut and Ferry Avenue
- Develop Progressive Link of Districts and Nodes AND an Aggressive Plan for Implementation
- Empower and Encourage Faith-Based Sector to Decorate and Assist Proximate Nodes/Districts. Create Incentive for Homeowners & Businesses to Decorate.
- Seek Funding for Key Nodes
- Ex. Community Development Grant, Fund-raising, Private Funding, Sell Advertising Rights, Sell Naming Rights, Corporate Sponsorships, etc
- Program Events in Coordination with Other Holiday Activities
- PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE