The St. Albert Farmers’ Market opened Saturday with a new look and a new location.
Eager to re-establish a degree of normalcy in their lives, die-hard shoppers flocked to the Servus Credit Union Place site despite a downpour of rain that lasted all day.
People arrived as singles or in groups, walking, biking and by car. Toddlers dressed in knee-high boots splashed in every puddle along the route, while seniors clutching umbrellas quietly filed into lineups that stretched out to Campbell Rd.
This year, the St. Albert Farmers’ Market operates as two smaller markets situated side-by-side. Jennifer McCurdy, president of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, estimated 2,500 people attended each market.
“I’m really pleased, especially with the weather. It shows St. Albert and the community is eager to support farmers and shop locally,” McCurdy said.
“We’re looking forward to a great season. You plan for so long, but then there are small adjustments to make. We’ve had positive feedback fro vendors and customers and we look forward to a wonderful season.”
McCurdy’s good spirits were echoed by vendors and consumers alike who appeared to thrive in the market’s vibrant social setting.
“I love being outside. There are so many people here,” said Todd Hoover of Tom Cat Metal Art. He custom designs an eclectic pop culture selection of garden art, fence art, metal signs, fire pits and more.
“With the rain, my expectations were minimal. But I’m blown away. People are so upbeat. Some people are in and out of the booth, and others you have a conversation for five minutes. That’s the part I enjoy – I like to talk. For me, sales are secondary.”
The two markets contain 84 stalls each. The layout is designed to follow recommendations set out by Alberta Health Services.
Vendors complied with social distancing and a series of strict hygienic practices, while chamber staff asked shoppers to use sanitizer before entering the markets and upon exiting.
Customers followed one-way directional arrows, scouting for wine and beer, vegetables and fruits, marinades and dressings as well as desserts and baking. Art, baby items, clothing, home décor, jewelry, meats, personal care, plants and assorted to-go meals were selling briskly.
Solar products are a growing trend this year. Murray Nolan of Ryley Woodcrafts builds cedar lamps, birdhouses, lighthouses and water wheels outfitted with solar lights.
“I like being outside. It’s better with the virus. Any outdoor market is healthier than being indoors,” said Nolan.
Just a couple booths over, Patrick MacCoy of Outhouse Mouse repurposes glassware, cups, plates, bowls and vases and recreates solar lamps, birdbaths and even a solar chandelier.
This is also Outhouse Mouse’s first year at the local market, and MacCoy underwent a great deal of anticipation wondering how the crowd would respond to his craft.
“Considering it’s a rainy day, we’ve had quite a flow of people,” chuckled daughter Sheila, who volunteered her sales savvy for the event.
Carl Liske is excited to be back fronting Carl’s Woodworking, a booth that sells licence plate birdhouses, cedar birdhouses, growth charts and children’s toys. His wife, Joanne, also sells artistically painted Mandala rocks.
The Barrhead artisans are decade-long St. Albert market vendors. Both sing their praises for its reputation.
“It’s a very interesting place, from the people who run the market to the customers. And it’s so different every week,” said Carl.
“And our fellow vendors are just wonderful. Some markets, they don’t help each other out. But here, it’s a pleasure,” added Joanne.
Shoppers responded to the couple’s positive energy by opening their wallets.
“Sales exceeded what we thought. We received some orders and Joanne was overwhelmed by how people enjoyed her rocks. She didn’t know how they’d be received,” Carl said.
Every customer the Gazette spoke to arrived at the market for the same reason – to support local business.
Karen and Daniel Pettitt of Edmonton were tagged while munching large New York-sized pretzels.
“We’ve supported local businesses for a while, but with the COVID shutdown, it’s really brought it to the forefront for us,” Daniel said.
Kelly and Chris Budd from Spring Lake west of Stony Plain came specifically to buy from their favourite vendors – Steve and Dan’s apple cider, snacks from Two Babas and a Stove, garlic dip from Annie and Andy’s Gourmet Goodies, and dessert from Phil’s Fudge.
“Coming to the market is part of my lifestyle, and this is one of the best. I like supporting small business and (keeping) the economy going. And it’s fresh,” said Kelly.
The St. Albert Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The market entrance is at 400 Campbell Rd. in front of Servus Place. Parking is free.