It’s a weekend highlight in southern Alberta during spring and summer; Saturday morning marked the first Lethbridge Farmers’ Market of the season at Exhibition Park.
“This is a key cog in the ecosystem of economic development in the agricultural food chain in southern Alberta,” said Lethbridge and District Exhibition CEO Mike Warkentin.
Like many things this year, the farmers’ market looks different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a limit of 150 people following the new public health restrictions announced earlier this week.
Vendors are spaced out with black dividers separating each booth. Hand sanitizer is placed throughout the market, and masks are required.
“We encourage people to come in, get their stuff and go home,” said Warkentin. “It’s not the same social gathering it would have been in the past.”
For vendors, it’s exciting to just be out.
“We are so happy. We have been waiting so long for this,” said Diane Thexton from Wild Rose Inspired.
“Right now, it’s our social outing. It’s seeing our customers, seeing our friends, it’s being back active, and everything we’ve spent the last four months making at home and finally getting to bring it here and see everybody.”
Thexton said Wild Rose Inspired spent six hours setting up its booth on Friday. It seems like a lot of work, but it will last a season. The booth will stay up until the final farmers’ market in October.
“We made the commitment last year that we were really only going to do the farmers’ market and the farmers’ market Christmas shows,” said Thexton. “We chose not to go out into the community to do other shows because of all the cancellations.”
Thexton said they have friends who would spend all day setting up a booth only to be told the next day the event was cancelled.
“We just didn’t want to put ourselves through that,” she said. “So we backed off and said the farmers’ market has always been there for us, always been good to us, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Wild Rose Inspired has been a regular vendor at the farmers’ market for 15 years.
“For the majority of our vendors, they depend on markets like ours for their commerce in a year,” said Warkentin.
Being there to support local vendors and southern Albertans is something Warkentin said Exhibition Park is happy to do.
“It’s a key piece of people’s weekends in southern Alberta. Our role is to bring people together, but we can only do so in a safe and responsible way.”
The farmers’ market can be found in Exhibition Park’s south pavilion.
Warkentin said this is to avoid congestion in the parking lot due Alberta Health Services’ vaccination clinic in the main pavilion.
Last year, Exhibition Park saw a record turnout of 40,000 shoppers to the two farmers’ markets it hosted.
“Wear your mask. There’s plenty of hand sanitizer throughout,” said Warkentin. “Please come down, let us know what you think, and all these vendors are anxious to see you.”