The spark will be returning to historic Sparks Street on Dec. 31, beginning with a Times Square-style New Year’s Eve party that promoters say will get people dancing along the downtown pedestrian mall.
With renovations to heritage buildings already in full swing, Les Gagne, executive director of the Sparks Street Mall Authority, says he wanted to throw a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate where Sparks Street will be headed in the next few years.
Gagne says the event will include a free outdoor concert featuring many different styles of music including award winning band Three Little Birds, Latino band Azucar Jam, local Ottawa band Autumn’s Cannon, and a bigger name that has yet to be determined.
In addition, Gagne says, people can also look forward to a vendor village selling coffee, hot chocolate and other grab-and-go foods, as well as a cash bar. There will also be a countdown clock and a ball drop at midnight to ring in the New Year.
Merchants along Sparks Street have been asked to participate in the event by advertising or hosting their own New Year’s Eve parties.
Holly Layte, owner of L’Ange Café and Mustard Shop on Sparks Street, says her business will be hosting a VIP dinner for the evening.
“Ottawa will not have seen anything like it before,” she says.
The event will be thrown with the help of the Old Ottawa South Rotary Club and CTV. A donation will be made to Ottawa rotary clubs using any money made at the event to help with their initiatives, Gagne says.
Gagne says he hopes Ottawans will engage with the restoration through social media. Everyone who “likes” the Sparks New Year’s page on Facebook will have the chance to win a VIP package for the night valued at $2,000, Gagne says.
Historically, Sparks Street has faced challenges including a lack of people living in the area. In the last 10 years, new condos have helped bring more people to the street.
The Sparks Street Mall Authority is now coming up with more ideas to revitalize the street now that there is more of a population living downtown.
“We really want people to see Sparks Street as a great place to get social,” Gagne says.
Future plans for Sparks Street include everything from new street signs and benches to completely resurfacing the area from Elgin Street to Bank Street and potentially painting it red, Gagne says.
He says people can look forward to more events in the new year such as Canada’s longest dining table, that will stretch the entire length of Sparks Street, from Elgin Street to Lyon Street.
As a long-time merchant on Sparks Street, Layte says she has been a witness to the ebb and flow of the vitality of the once lively street over the years.
“To be part of the transformation of Sparks Street to someone like me who is an Ottawa native has a real sense of accomplishment,” she says.
Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes says she is delighted and says the idea is exactly what Sparks Street needs.
“It would be great if it would become an annual event to give families an affordable, interesting and exciting place to go on New Year’s Eve,” she says.
Gagne says he hopes that New Year's Eve on Sparks will kick-start a resurrection of the spirit of Sparks Street for a new generation.
“We’re really working hard to bring the community together,” he says.