Dennis Moffat expected the 40th season opener of the Red Deer Public Market would be a wild one.
After assessing opening day on Saturday, he figured he was right.
“It was much better than expected with the weather pulling through and we had many, many people come. . . about 12,000 people,” Moffat said.
Under cool, but sunny skies, throngs of people descended on the Arena parking lot packed with vendors selling everything from organic chocolates to Egyptian sheets and towels. Some shoppers hauled away bedding plants while others chowed down on sausage and perogies. Young musicians busked wherever there was an empty space.
Janet Brown and her husband, Jared, and their two-year-old son, Marcus, arrived around 9 a.m. so they could hit the market when it wasn’t so busy. The pancakes were also a big allure.
“We try to come at least every other week,” said Brown, of Red Deer.
She particularly likes the Susan’s Sensational Sweets booth offering cakes, tarts and pies. Brown also intended on picking up some tomato plants.
“There’s a lot of neat stuff, and it changes up a little bit each week,” said Brown.
Some businesses, charities and event organizers were also trying to cash in as well.
CentreFest organizers were selling tiny sunflower plants for $2 each and handing out flyers on the downtown street performers festival, which runs July 31 to August 1.
“We’re here promoting the event and looking for volunteers as well,” said festival director Randy Butler.
Each year, the market draws new vendors with unique offerings.
Among those is Red Deer County resident Jodie Seymour, whose uses vibrant-coloured tape to create her own Hula Hoops. The children’s Hoops run from $10 to $25, the adults from $40 to $55.
Hula hooping is catching on, she said.
“There’s the exercise market and there’s a bit of a culture around hoop dancing,” Seymour said.
Moffat arrived at the market at about 3 a.m. in anticipation of the vendors’ arrival. A total of 181 vendors attended, compared with 202 on 2009 opening day.
“It was a much nicer day (last year),” he said.
Moffat has been running the market throughout its reign. At 76, he’s not ready to slow down.
“I’ve done it for 40 years so I’ll keep doing it until I drop,” said Moffat, who can be seen walking around in his trademark cowboy hat.
Moffat said he’ll pass the market operations eventually onto his only son Patrick, who travels from Edmonton every Saturday to help him out.
Red Deer’s Public Market will be open at 43rd Street and 48th Avenue, every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Thanksgiving weekend.