A brisk morning on the start of May long weekend didn’t stop thousands from converging downtown for the first day of the Red Deer Public Market on Saturday.
The 42nd annual seasonal marketplace of produce, artwork and other miscellaneous items, will operate on extended hours this year — from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. — in front of the Red Deer Arena at the corner of 43rd Street and 48th Avenue.
Speaking over buskers, patrons and vendors, market manager Dennis Moffat said that they would see approximately 15,000 people through the market, judging by the crowd meandering through at 10 a.m.
He said the additional two hours will continue through the summer until the market closes at the end of the season. Vendors have the option to leave at 12:30 p.m. or stay until 2 p.m.
“We will see if people are happy with it,” Moffat said.
“The vendors should be happy.
“The ones who are not happy are my helpers who have to work two more hours,” he added with a smile.
The extended hours will enable people to get a little extra rest on Saturday, Moffat explained.
“For people who work late this gives them a chance to wake up and get to the market.”
Trina Penner, drama and dance teacher at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, supports the change.
“I think it is great,” she said, as a waft of cinnamon and sugar from stuffed churros and mini donuts filled the air.
“Any time that we can have events that involve arts or culture, or areas where a number of eclectic businesses and food places can get together and bring people from the community, it is wonderful,” she said.
But for John Luymes of Lacombe’s Luymes Apiaries Honey, setting up shop at 7 a.m. and working until 2 p.m. is a long haul.
“At noon it goes quiet anyway,” he said, adding that he intends to pack up and leave at 12:30 p.m.
Typically, before the hours were extended, many vendors would make their way to farmers’ markets in Bentley that run from 1:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m.
Sheila Bakke, of Sheila’s Range Food Products, continuously reminded people of the extended hours on Saturday, hoping to drum up word of mouth. She made the decision to forgo the Bentley market this year.
“I used to do the Bentley market Saturday afternoons but I had to let that one go because I’m a one-woman show over here,” she said.
“As much as it was hard to leave Bentley, I can’t be in two places at once. I don’t think for myself, and my business, that it is good to leave in the middle of the market.”
An early morning puzzle was another task Moffat and his organizers had to solve on Saturday.
Accounting for a little extra congestion, 60 vendors, previously on the east side of the market, had to be relocated due to renovations that will add four new ice rinks to the 60-year-old Red Deer Curling Centre at 4725 43rd Sreet.
“There was some creative placement,” Moffat said.
While they didn’t reach the record of 220 vendors, Moffat was pleased with the 210 who did set up shop.
The Red Deer Public Market is open every Saturday until Oct. 6. Alberta now has more than 125 approved farmers’ markets, including 22 year-round markets, according to Alberta Agriculture.