A local farmers market that aims to support small vendors and craftspeople while bringing the community together is hosting its annual Christmas show and market on Dec. 4 at the Airdrie Town and Country Centre.
According to manager Candice Kolson, the Airdrie Farmers Market saw a notable increase in foot traffic at its summer and autumn markets compared to 2020, when they operated at reduced capacity during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[This is] the second year dealing with COVID for the markets, so people were getting back out and feeling a little bit more comfortable about all our health restrictions we had to put in place,” she said. “And some restrictions had come off, [too].”
She added with fewer restrictions in effect, more people were able to attend the summer market this year, boasting more vendors than ever before.
“It was definitely the biggest market that we’ve ever hosted,” she said. “So that was really nice to see.”
Kolson said the early November Christmas show and market also saw great success with increased foot traffic. However, she added attendance is still down about 50 per cent from pre-pandemic levels.
“We are still very thankful that we were able to operate and that everybody is following the rules that we have to implement,” she said. “We were very happy with how the [November] market turned out, and now we are heading into December, so the next one is our last market of 2021.
“It’s a quick one. It’s only 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, but we’re pretty excited about it.”
She added the final market of the year will host to some Airdrie fan favourites from previous markets, including a lot of food vendors.
“Food is a big draw for the Airdrie Farmers Market and we find in Airdrie, a lot of people really support those vendors,” Kolson said.
The market will also include holiday-specific vendors, including bath bombs from local shop The Soap Lady, a fruitcake vendor, Christmas ornaments, decorations, pictures, and more.
According to Kolson, these are vendors you can only find at the market during Christmastime. She added she is proud to support small businesses, which don’t often see foot traffic in their day-to-day operations.
“They need to keep their business going, so it’s very important that we are able to continue to operate and we were thankful the Alberta government saw the benefit for keeping us open as retail and grocery stores,” Kolson said. “This is how a lot of self-employed people keep their lights on and support their families.”
She added many small business vendors would not have qualified for COVID-19 financial assistance, and so the market stepped up to provide a platform for them to continue their revenue stream.
“It would have been absolutely devastating for them not to be able to remain open and attend farmers markets in the region,” she said.
Kolson added the market will be subject to the oftentimes rapidly changing government COVID-19 restrictions. As it stands, the market will not implement the Restriction Exemption Program (REP) and will be operating at a one-third capacity, with guests required to wear masks and maintain social distancing while they shop.
“We will not accept any of those plastic chin shields or anything of that nature,” Kolson said. “It has to be an actual face mask – if people forget, we will have ones on site provided for them.”
She added the market will also be keeping track of how many people are in the building at one time, noting the method of monitoring attendance was successful at the November market with no lineups out the door.
As in previous years, admission to the market will be based on monetary or food donations to the Airdrie Food Bank.@carmenrcundy