The Stettler and District Agricultural Society’s agriplex was humming with the sounds of Christmas shoppers and vendors on Tuesday, Oct. 27, even though Christmas is just shy of two months away.
The Christmas Farmers’ Market early date is a necessity borne by the multi-purpose use of the agriplex, which on Nov. 1 will see tractor-loads of dirt put down to turn the building into its winter arena, Christmas market coordinator Darla Rairdan explained.
Though many people are loathe to think of Christmas before Halloween has even sent trick-or-treaters to their doors, it didn’t stop the holiday shoppers from coming out in force.
“It’s been pretty busy,” Rairdan said Tuesday afternoon, adding that she expected the after-work crowd to cause another surge in shoppers.
For the past three years, Valeria Brimacombe has travelled from Lacombe to sell her placemats and table runners at the Christmas market. Brimacomb learned to sew at her mother’s knee, then later in school through home economics classes. She was working at a cloth shop, picking up odds and ends, when she started making placemats for herself, family, and friends.
One of those friends invited her to start selling her wares at craft sales, and that was that, Brimacombe said.
Stettler’s one of her best winter markets, she added, noting that people are always super friendly, and there’s “usually a lot of people coming through. I’ve never been (here) when there’s not a lot of people.”
Across the aisle, Jane Duncalfe did brisk business in her second year selling fruitcake. Before she took over coming to Stettler, the Innisfail’s fruitcake-selling partner had come to the market.
“(The market) is very diverse,” Duncalfe said. “There’s lots of selection in the vendors, and people are very friendly.”
Duncalfe said as far as she could see, she was the only one of the many people selling food that was selling fruitcake.
“It’s quickly becoming the choice for people in athletics, due to the energy packed into the dense cake,” she said of the fruit-and-nut Christmas staple.
And fruitcake appeared popular as there was rarely an open gap at Duncalfe’s table.
The market sold roughly 100 tables for this year’s event , though not everyone showed up, Rairdan said. She said that with the no-shows in consideration, about 95 different merchants were peddling their wares, from home-based businesses like Tupperware and Avon, to home-made preserves, smoked meat, woodwork, and sewn or knitted goods.
Another vendor, Todd Warnke, came in from Millet, north of Wetaskiwin, for the market, as Stettler’s one of his favourites.
“I’ve been doing farmers’ markets all year, and Stettler’s always busy,” he said. He sells beef jerky products made by a friend of his. Though originally the friend used the cattle raised by his brother, the demand has outstripped supply and they’ve had to find secondary producers, Warnke said.
The former bartender came dressed up for the season, wearing a bright red and white Santa Claus hat as he handed out samples of the soft smoked meat.
“I like being my own boss, I like the product, and I like helping out my pal,” he said, adding that he’s made his career out of marketing for the past two years.
The Christmas farmers’ market comes just a few days before a Halloween event, which means the agricultural society and its volunteers are having to work overtime to put up and take down Christmas decorations, then put up Halloween ones.
“It can’t be helped,” Rairdan said. “But it’s made things interesting.”