CARP – It was a long line-up, but it was worth the wait as hundreds of shoppers made sure to attend the last Carp Farmers’ Market of its strange 30th season last Saturday (Nov. 14).
Market organizers decided to extend this year’s season by two Saturdays, while cancelling the traditions Christmas Market held every year in December. One of several significant changes this year, a season held during the global, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a decision that seems to have paid off as patient shoppers lined-up from the front entrance of the market for what looked like a little more than half a kilometre away, all socially distanced, but eager to get a chance to get their locally produced shopping done on the last day of the market’s 30th year.
Woodlawn’s Barb Hare has been a vendor with the market for 29 years. Hare’s business, Farm Experience School Crafts, has all sorts of homemade products. She says this year was unlike any she has experienced, but in the end, another good one.
“It’s been very good, very good,” Hare told West Carleton Online between shoppers. “Yes, definitely. I usually have my booth inside, so its been new being outside, but its been very good.”
Hare has enjoyed her time as an outside vendor, one of just more than 40 vendors last Saturday, despite having to deal with the elements a little more directly.
“I had one rain out day,” she said. “Otherwise the weather has been cooperative.”
Hare even added to her product line this year. Fittingly during a pandemic, Hare added masks for purchase for only $5 per mask.
“They’ve been very popular,” Hare said. “I can’t keep up. It’s surprising because many people are selling them. But our regular people, they seem to like them and buy them.”
Signs of the pandemic have been all over the 30th year of the Carp Farmers’ Market. Not just the signs in everyone’s sightline requesting masks, and sanitizer and sharing other COVID-19 related rules. Less obvious signs as well. All season long, there have been about half as many vendors on site as in previous years. The market boasted more than 100 vendors on some Saturdays in recent years past. There is no ready to eat food to enjoy in a shaded food court while listening to live music and people watching. Too dangerous during a pandemic.
Visitors are encouraged to work their way through the market quickly. For safety and to allow as many people to enjoy the market as possible while capping the number of visitors to a hard count for safety reasons inside the market – now boasting a perimeter.
It’s been a unique experience for long-time market manager Ennio Marcantonio.
“Absolutely, lock downs here or there, red zones and orange zones and all these different zones that have been coming around,” Marcantonio told West Carleton Online. “We’re lucky we can still operate and move forward like the way we have been. There was a lot of learning this year and we had to change a lot of things from the way we had been operating, especially the perimeter. Big change. Lots to learn and hopefully next year we can get going from Easter on.”
Marcantonio says several vendors, such as local jewelers, just weren’t able to come up with a reasonable COVID-19 plan that made it feasible for them to attende.
The good news is, the market season is ending on a high note for vendors, struggling like all business owners in the age of COVID-19.
“Yes, one of the longest lineups this year,” Marcantonio said. “Went around Storybook Farm and almost to the arena.”
Its validation for adding two new days while cancelling one of the market’s busiest days – the Christmas market.
“It’s worked out really well,” Marcantonio said. “We couldn’t ask for any better weather than what we received. Waiting for December to have our annual Christmas market, I think would have been really risky. That’s why we decided to extend our season by two days in November.”