Mandatory masks, a reduced number of vendors and one-way traffic flow will be some of the new health and safety protocols implemented at the Airdrie Farmers' Market’s (AFM) 2020 Christmas Show.
This year's iteration of the market will be held Nov. 6 and 7 at the Airdrie Town and Country Centre. According to AFM Manager Candice Kolson, the event will feature 42 vendors selling a variety of handmade items, homemade food, Christmas-related crafts and other goods.
“Unfortunately, it’s not going to be as big as it has been or [have] as many vendors as there have been in the past,” she said. “But a lot of our big draws and most of our food vendors will be there.”
Vendors will mostly be local, according to Kolson, with the majority coming from Airdrie or within a 20-minute drive from the city.
The number of shoppers allowed into the market will not be determined until the event is underway, according to Kolson. She said event organizers will assess how long shoppers stay and if there are any bottlenecks in the aisles to see if the capacity needs to be reduced.
“We’ll be controlling that from the door, but we’re not putting a solid number on it," she said. "It could be 80 or 200 – we won’t know until we see how people are shopping and coming through.”
At some iterations of AFM's summer markets, Kolson said staff noticed large groups shopping together. She said shopping in large cohorts will be highly discouraged at the Christmas market.
“This is not the place to meet up with your mom, dad, aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said. “If you want to come shop, please shop with a purpose.”
While masks were not mandatory at the farmers' market this summer, Kolson said they will be required at the Christmas Show because of the indoor setting. If shoppers do not have a mask when they arrive, she said they will be able to purchase a disposable one at the market, with proceeds supporting the Airdrie Food Bank.
During the weekly summer markets, the first half-hour was reserved for seniors. According to Kolson, this protocol will not be in place at the Christmas Show, to limit the length of time seniors wait outside.
“Because traffic is pretty sporadic and it is wintertime, we don’t want people waiting outside in line unless we’re at maximum capacity,” she said. “With the senior shopping, we found through the summer that people had to wait because they were coming early, before the market opened, and had to wait outside in the heat. We don’t want to do that in the winter, especially during cold and flu season.”
Despite a recent spike in the number of active cases of COVID-19 in Airdrie, Kolson said organizers are not considering calling off or postponing the Christmas Show, given farmers' markets have been deemed an essential service. The market will only be cancelled upon the instruction of Alberta Health Services, she said.
“It is retail and it is safe to do so, as long as everyone follows protocol and has patience,” Kolson said.
“These are people’s livelihoods. You have a lot of businesses that didn’t qualify for any government assistance through the pandemic. In order for us to help them, we need to keep our doors open.”
As in past years, admission to the market is a food or cash donation to the Airdrie Food Bank. Considering the struggles the food bank has experienced and the increased demand for its services since the onset of the pandemic, Kolson said she hopes market attendees will consider doubling the amount they've donated in the past.
“Whether it’s $1 or $10, please bring something for the food bank, and please give generously, because they need it right now,” she said.
The market will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 6 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 7. For more information, visit airdriefarmersmarket.com