“I like to be busy.” I was interviewing the dynamic founder of 519 Productions & Events, Morena McDonald, and I was fairly sure she was underselling herself. As we kept talking, I was sure I was correct. Morena was a positive, happy person and it was clear she knew her business and had an eye for what people were interested in.
As she said herself, Morena is normally a very busy woman, and I wanted to hear how a former news anchor and reporter transitioned into running a successful events company that has made a name for itself by putting on popular events in Ontario.
“I lived in Toronto for a few years,” Morena told me as we got to know each other. “I liked Toronto, and even had a chance to volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was a fun time, but look what we have right here. Our communities are growing, and I saw an opportunity to do something special.”
As Morena met and got to know people, she met Pat Murray and worked with her on landowner events for Pattern Energy. “Working with Pattern is always great, and Pat and I have become friends,” she said.
I was starting to think Morena makes friends everywhere she goes, as everyone seems to be friends with her. She made it official, and in 2018 launched 519 Events & Promotions.
While she saw an opportunity, she also saw a big problem it could help solve. “These days we don’t think twice about shopping online, and I think we’ve already forgotten how quickly it became normal,” she said, matter of factly. “By chasing that convenience, we lose something as a society.”
“Meeting people matters,” she went on, smiling. “People need other people, and being able to meet a local vendor who put their heart into creating something is a special experience that can’t be replicated online.”
Morena said her love of meeting vendors herself, seeing the things they create, and knowing others would love them too gave rise to the creation of the Dresden Christmas Market.
As you can see in the video above, Dresden lights up the town and people come from all around to enjoy the festive Christmas atmosphere.
In addition to the Dresden Christmas Market, 519 Productions also produces the Summer Night Market and each sees between four to five thousand people visit Dresden, which has been great for the town and businesses. Each event is a bookend to each other, providing two festivals a year.
“All the businesses that participate in both events really enjoy it, and they all made revenue,” Morena said. She is proud that she’s been able to attract people to the community, and she’s enthusiastic about the future.
“Things are slowly getting back to normal,” she said. “When people come on hard times, they think differently, and we’re all making it work.”
Morena also participated with popular online site Etsy to put on “Etsy: Made in Canada,” an event that has been happening in cities across Canada since 2014. Chatham-Kent was one of the first cities to host the yearly festival and 519’s website says, “Organized in partnership with the Chatham-Kent Etsy Team and Etsy Canada, the main focus is on celebrating small businesses and items that are made in the Chatham-Kent region.”
I noted that all the events Morena puts on have a positive economic impact for the community.
“We light up the town, it’s beautiful and everyone has a wonderful time. Really,” said Morena with a smile. “At the end of the day, this is all about friends. We all like each other and want to see each other succeed. When local businesses do well, it’s good for everyone as we continue to grow and look ahead to a bright future.”