It’s not been the most typical of Okanagan summers, but though it’s been cooler and wetter than usual, that’s not holding back Penticton’s downtown Saturday markets.
Whether it’s because of the weather or in spite of it, both the Community Market and the Farmers’ Market are reporting one of their best years.
“It’s good and definitely up from last year,” said Barb Haynes of the Downtown Penticton Association, who sponsor the Community Market.
“It has been good all along, but this year has just exceeded our expectations. It’s always a compliment when you have other communities wanting to copy what you do; we’re finding many of them coming to us now,” she continued. “Even with the cooler temperatures that we were experiencing this spring and into July, people enjoyed coming out to support the market. So far, we’ve not had a rain-out yet.“
Over at the Farmers’ Market, manager Stephanie Sundquist said they are also seeing big crowds.
“It’s been a busy year, it’s been a great year,” Sundquist said, adding that a count done a couple of years ago showed that about 5,000 visitors come through on a busy market day.
She attributes part of the success to growing awareness about eating local and eating healthy helping to raise the profile of markets.
“People actually go and seek out farmers’ markets on vacation now,” Sundquist said.
There have been many tourists coming to the market’s information booth to find out if there is a market at the place they plan to visit.
“People are seeing them as a tourist destination now, which is neat,” she said. “They’re all a little different, it’s really interesting.”
But the late August spate of good weather has resulted in another factor helping to increase the number of visitors to the market.
“The hot weather recently has made it so we had a week with cherries, apples, peaches all ready at the same time. Usually, they go one at a time,” Sundquist said. “The weather has caught up, and therefore everything else is starting to catch up as well.”
And then there is the entertainment, a big factor at both markets as they draw on Penticton’s talent pool for performers and buskers to entertain the crowds.
“The entertainers, the calibre of entertainment has been phenomenal. Lots of wonderful favourites that people look forward to seeing each week,” said Haynes.
And according to Sundquist, the entertainers love the way the crowds respond and the feedback they get, so they have no shortage of talented people wanting to make return appearances.
“It has been so encouraging to see how much the community has embraced the downtown and the opportunity of the market experience,” Haynes said.
While the Farmers’ Market has been a mainstay for more than two decades, the Community Market is a relative newcomer, only four years old. The controversy surrounding the addition of a third market to the existing Farmers’ and Artisans’ Markets has dissipated, said Haynes.
“Often, people are nervous about change and challenged by that … when people feel personally successful, it changes philosophies, it changes how people think,” said Haynes, looking back on how opinions have changed.
“It has been so encouraging to see how much the community has embraced the downtown and the opportunity of the market experience,” Haynes said. “I think Penticton is a great community to host the market. We are friendly and welcoming.”