Oval Vendor
Rosete Zola, left, and Aisha Nyamukondiwa at the Morning Star Bakery booth. Event photos by Eric Orlowski

Nov. 24, 2023

Olympic Oval pivots holiday market to give UCalgary entrepreneurs a new venue

1st-ever Holiday Market & Skate for the Oval draws upward of 1,000 visitors

First-time annual events can sometimes be a gamble. However, on Nov. 18 the spirit of the holiday season helped usher in a spectacular Holiday Market & Skate at the Olympic Oval with nearly 1,000 Calgarians, including UCalgary students, faculty and staff in attendance. Not even a balmy 12 C was enough to prevent the community from shopping and skating indoors.

Post-pandemic, the Oval has been working hard to offer key skating events every month during the ice season. However, November doesn’t typically have a special event day like Halloween or Christmas.

“We’ve never had a November skating event. You can’t do Remembrance Day or American Thanksgiving, so we needed to think about what we could offer that was unique to the university and the community,” says Robert Porter, manager, partner development and guest relations.

Oval Vendor

The idea of a market and skate started gaining traction in the summer. Staff started out by engaging local vendors to gauge interest. However, there wasn’t much interest as Calgary tends to be saturated with weekend markets over the holiday season. Then, the Oval team re-imagined the market concept as primarily a UCalgary student and alumni entrepreneurial event.

“Once we figured out a niche, table registration soared. We had hoped for 30 vendors, but there was a flood of interest, and by mid-November, we had 70 registered vendors,” says Stephanie Griffiths, team lead, guest relations.

Students showcase entrepreneurship

For the market, 95 per cent of vendors were a combination of UCalgary students and alumni. Only five per cent were outside community vendors. As guests started coming in, square readers and point-of-sale systems started dinging with lineups of customers making holiday purchases.

“By 4 p.m. I sold out. It was my first market, and I was so happy to showcase my business,” said Jane Mo, UCalgary student and owner of the Comma, a Greek yogurt business. 

skaters in the Oval

The market was diverse, with 70 vendors offering arts and crafts, baked goods, catered food, 3D printed art, jewelry, clothing, toys, crochet products, and decorative wood. 

Afterward, hundreds of guests enjoyed skating on 'the fastest ice in the world' as Christmas music filled the Oval.

Is the Holiday Market & Skate returning?

The Holiday Market & Skate will be back. It’s an event that checks off many important boxes for the Olympic Oval and the Faculty of Kinesiology, including amplifying health, well-being, and fitness.

UCalgary is Canada’s entrepreneurial university, and this is the perfect space for UCalgary student and alumni entrepreneurs to shine.

“There is no other event like this in Calgary. Shopping and skating seem to be a natural fit for the Oval, and we look forward to offering more markets and skates with UCalgary student and alumni vendors,” says Mark Messer, director, Olympic Oval.

The 2024 Holiday Market & Skate date hasn’t been selected yet but will be in November 2024.

Stay up to date with Oval events