ANTIGONISH, N.S. - It’s not surprising to see downtown Antigonish busy on a Friday mid-afternoon, just not this busy.
Folks, some with attire indicating they are from B.C., Ontario, P.E.I. or some other part of Canada – or maybe just supporting an athlete or two from those provinces – were popping in-and-out of downtown business with regularity. Antigonish is, after all, hosting the Special Olympic 2018 Summer Games, from July 31 to Aug. 4.
They were grabbing a souvenir, sitting down for a meal or just happy to browse, chat with an employee and share their impressions of the Highland Heart of Nova Scotia.
“The traffic is amazing, it has been an excellent week,” Nicole MacGillivray, from The Plum Tree Gift Shoppe, said, as three small groups looked around her store and commented, enthusiastically, on the merchandise.
“People seem to appreciate the fact they can walk around town, there is no big commute,” MacGillivray added. “They’re friendly and happy; it’s great … it has been overwhelming but amazing.”
Just a couple of doors down on Main Street, going towards Church Street, Roseanne MacEachern from DreamCatcher’s Deli and Treats was being run off her feet but not minding the pace.
“Awesome… way more than I could even anticipate,” she said, as the restaurant was filled to capacity at a time almost exactly between lunch and supper.
“Above and beyond,” she continued. “We’ve quadrupled what we normally do, and we only have a small space.”
Across the street, Matthieu Fraser from Highland Bike Shop said, while he’s not really selling bikes to out-of-province visitors, he is selling smaller items like shirts and water bottles and there have been a lot of conversations.
“They’re asking questions about the local places,” he said. “It’s a lot of physically active people so they see bikes in the window and want to come in and see what we’re all about.”
Fraser said biking conversations sometimes drift to talking about what the nearby Keppoch has to offer. Then, there are the more casual chats about where to eat downtown.
“I found a lot of them come in knowing a lot of people here are fairly local, know what food they enjoy and other things to do around town; so they’ll come in and ask questions and we, purposely, interact. We’ll ask them where they’re from, a little about their history … maybe [happen on] something relatable.”
Pachamama - chocolatier, tea bar and whole food emporium, on the corner of College and St. Ninian streets, is a place Fraser said he mentions and owner Leanna Braid noted she has seen a “pick-up” during the week.
Braid listed B.C., Ontario and the three other Atlantic Canadian provinces as places she has met folks from, as they’ve dropped into her restaurant.
Jean Benoit from MacKinnons Pharmasave talked about the visitors being very “friendly.”
“We’ve seen a lot of extra people come and they seem to like Antigonish more than a lot of other places,” she said. “We’ve heard a lot of good comments.”