Sidewalk Days, the annual event in Moose Jaw that sees massive sales at downtown stores coupled with street performances and copious amounts of food, has been been around since the 1970’s. And Swanee Gemmel, owner of Gemmel’s Shoes, has seen 28 of them, the most of any business in the city.
In 1952, Gemmel’s parents opened the shop as a shoe repair store and then later expanded it into a footwear retail business. The shop was eventually moved from the east side of the city to their current downtown location in 1984 where they’ve enjoyed a steady stream of loyal customers ever since.
That same year, Gemmel’s Shoes took part in their first Sidewalk Days and continue to hold sales during the event year after year.
Gemmel said that over time, Sidewalk Days has hosted a number of different entertainers and events, but he’s had his favourites.
“I remember one year they did a Mardi Gras theme and they had a lot of the buskers dressed up in costumes dancing,” he said. “Some of the stores participated as well, which was very warm for the kind of running around we were doing. So that kind of faded away.”
In the beginning, Gemmel said there was a lot of foot traffic and the event was very busy, but the focus was on retailers and their sales. However, he added that the festival has changed with age.
“It’s grown into more entertainment rather than just vendours selling. I think that’s been a big attraction and it just adds to the whole occasion of Sidewalk Days. It has a lot of events for a lot of people,” he said. “Some come out for the entertainment, some come out for the shopping, and probably lots do both, which is a nice blend.”
The increase in traffic is boost for retailers in the downtown district who get a chance to show off their products and get rid of old stock. Gemmel said it’s nice to have the extra room.
For more on this story, read an upcoming edition of the Times-Herald.