Downtown no longer needs street festival, it ‘draws people on its own,’ says Oakville mayor

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Published May 16, 2023 at 9:10 am

The cancellation of Midnight Madness may actually be a good sign, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton says. One that shows downtown Oakville is vibrant as ever. INHALTON.COM PHOTO

Mayor Rob Burton understands why Oakville’s largest street festival has been cancelled.

For more than 40 years, Midnight Madness drew tens of thousands of people every year to the popular downtown event that closed off Lakeshore Rd and featured live entertainment, food and family fun.

The Oakville Downtown Business Improvement Association, though, recently announced it was putting a kibosh on the street festival and while the annual tradition may be gone, Burton believes it’s an idea whose time perhaps had come.

The cancellation of Midnight Madness may actually be a good sign, he says. One that shows downtown Oakville is vibrant as ever.

“We’re about to rebuild the Towne Square soon and their theory is that they no longer need Midnight Madness to attract people down to acquaint them with the existence of the shopping district,” Burton told inhalton.com’s Khaled Iwamura during their monthly video chat. “It now draws people on its own.

“We used to have a problem after the recession of vacant stores (downtown) and we don’t have that problem anymore, so I think it’s a good news story.”

For the Downtown BIA, the decision came around to not putting all its money into one night.

“In terms of Midnight Madness, in years past this event took up the majority of the BIA summer budget being spent on a single night, whereas the events and activation strategy in place brings events weekly throughout the entire summer, to ensure consistent on-going traffic to downtown,” Adrienne Gordon, executive director of the Downtown Oakville Business Improvement Association (BIA) told inhalton.com.

Midnight Madness had been around since 1977. It often started around 6 p.m. on a Friday night and last well into the early morning hours of Saturday.

Gordon says the BIA still plans to be very active during the summer months with other planned events from the beginning of June until the end of August that should draw crowds into the downtown area.

“I talked to the leader of the Business Improvement Area (Gordon) that is responsible for this and she explained that the merchants have decided that by having activities all the time instead of only for midnight madness, they’ve actually gotten a big, big increase in the health and vitality and prosperity of the district,” said Burton.

They got steady, good attendance to the six-block shopping area. Half the merchants used to complain about Midnight Madness being a loss of business, because then you wouldn’t have to close.”

Gordon isn’t ruling out bringing the popular street festival back, especially if a major sponsor steps forward to financially support the event.

“It’s a BIA decision and they think Midnight Madness has been replaced by better,” said Burton. “They got a new stage to perform on, if we can use show business lingo here, in that we rebuilt the street and gave them much bigger sidewalks and pretty granite and all that stuff.”

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