KELOWNA, B.C. – Families enjoying dinner in downtown Kelowna is nothing new.
But the location – the 200 block of Leon Avenue Thursday night on a stretch of road better known for crime, drugs and homeless camps – was on Thursday night.
The transformation took place during the first Leon Avenue Night Market Food Truck Rally of 2016.
“We’re reclaiming this neighbourhood,” said organizer Quinn Best.
Best has been operating the Habitat entertainment space directly across from the Kelowna Gospel Mission for about a decade. He commandeered a former used car lot next door in 2015 to host his night market concept.
“I think Kelowna’s missing something downtown,” said Best. “People want something that’s family friendly.
Pockets of downtown Kelowna have been transformed in the last 25 years, including the waterfront north of City Park, with the addition of walkways, an outdoor ice rink and park space. Bernard Avenue has also seen millions of dollars in upgrades by the City. Businesses line the road, compared to the vacancy signs and papered up windows in the early 90’s.
Yet several blocks of Leon Avenue, home to the Kelowna Gospel Mission and two nightclubs, have remained sketchy, especially at night.
On Thursday evening, Families packed the food truck event from 4-9 p.m., enjoying the tasty food and atmosphere.
While many families Global News spoke to enjoyed having such an event downtown, organizers are not turning a blind eye to the desperate social issues on the street.
“It’s also a way for us to meet the people in our neighbourhood,” said Best. “They watch us all day setting up. Why not lend a hand? The vendors have been very grateful and giving out some free meals to the people who are helping out.”
“We’re bringing awareness to what the needs are of the Mission,” Best said. “People are dropping of clothing donations and finding out about some of the other programs.”
The 2015 night markets hosted by Best were also well attended, proving that people are not deterred from coming down to Leon Avenue.
“I think people are curious,” he said. “All of downtown is evolving and it’s an exciting time to try something new. So having a night market downtown, it is just like a farmers market in the daytime on a Sunday. This is kind of the yang to that.”
The Food Truck Rally will take place every third Thursday of the month until October.
The Leon Avenue Night Markets are outlined on the website, with details still being worked out with the City.