Instead of a 50th birthday celebration, the Red Deer Public Market faces its first-ever cancellation.
The disappointment of not opening Red Deer’s annual summer market next month is “crushing” to founder Dennis Moffat.
The former teacher and city councillor, who started the outdoor gathering of vendors in 1970, had been looking forward to holding a half-century anniversary season of special events — including prizes and giveaways.
Now, all that must be postponed to whenever the market will be allowed to open — whether later in the summer, or next year.
Moffat recently received official notice from the City of Red Deer revoking his permission to lease the Servus Arena parking lot starting on Victoria Day, when the market was to launch. The cancellation extends to at least June 30, said Karen Mann, the city’s emergency management co-ordinator.
“As we move into the summer, we haven’t made any decisions yet beyond June 30… Nobody knows right now what July 1 will look like,” she explained.
If viral cases fall drastically, perhaps larger gatherings will once again be on the table, added Mann.
But as of last month, gatherings of more than 15 people have been outlawed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Moffat, who’s self-isolating at home with his wife, was expecting that the public market would have to at least be postponed, if not cancelled for the season.
With thousands of customers drawn to downtown Red Deer for produce, clothing, arts, crafts and trinkets every Saturday morning, social distancing would be impossible to enforce, he admitted.
Moffat mostly feels sorry for the 200-plus vendors, many of whom depend on market sales for their incomes.
He’s been advising them to arrange for curbside sales at their own properties, if possible — which is what many retailers and restaurants are now doing. Customers who want contact information for their favourite vendors can call Moffat at 403-346-6443.
Like other central Albertans, he is keeping an eye on the number of local virus cases in hopes of seeking a reduction soon.
Moffat said he still hopes the public market can start in July or later in the season. But if that’s not possible, then the 50th anniversary celebration will still be held — in 2021.