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St. Albert Farmers Market opens Saturday

0506 Market file

The St. Albert Farmers Market has a long-standing tradition as one of the best assets in the region.

It opens this Saturday, June 8 and will be in the same location as last year. It starts on St. Anne Street from Janos Café and extends past St. Albert Place, as well as down St. Thomas Street., before finishing at St. Anne Promenade.

The market has a capacity for 270 vendors and is considered the largest outdoor farmers market in Western Canada, attracting anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 visitors.

Its massive success stems from two reasons. While vendors like the longevity of the site, customers are drawn to the market for its variety and one-stop shopping.

Traditionally, the market opens the week after the International Children’s Festival of the Arts and closes Thanksgiving weekend. Due to the way the dates lined up on the calendar, the market will be open 19 weeks instead of the usual 18.

“We’re really excited about that one extra week. It gives the vendors an extra day to sell their product and for visitors to shop,” said Jennifer McCurdy, president of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce.

Another welcome addition to the market is an open-air beer garden serving at the Royal Canadian Legion on St. Anne Promenade and Tache Street.

The outdoor event set up in the legion’s parking lot runs from June 15 to Aug. 31 providing beers, coolers, pop, water and chips.

As an extension of the legion’s Class C liquor licence, children will be allowed to enter the gardens.

“The idea has been circulating for some time. The changes to liquor licences made it more feasible and easier to get involved. We also have a number of volunteers interested in working the beer gardens,” said legion president Doug Delorme.

At the main market, a diversity of foods, arts, crafts and personal products are available. Shoppers can expect to find a range of household needs from salmon, pies, dressings and honey to cedar crafts, planters, jewelry and soaps.

“We even have a couple of distilleries. When regulations changed a couple of years ago, we were able to bring in wine, vodka and beer,” McCurdy said.

New this year are vendors hawking beard oil, organic teas, vegan cheese as well as organic broth and vegan stock.

Although approximately 20 fruit and produce vendors have signed up, fewer numbers will be present on opening day.

“The weather hasn’t been warm enough. All we need is good weather and they’ll catch up. Typically not everyone is there on the first day,” said market manager Roxane Closson.

Anyone needing a snack can drop by a variety of food trucks serving Middle Eastern and Ukrainian fare, franks, tacos, elephant ears, burgers, chip sticks, coffee and lemonade.

Visitors craving ice cream can stop by Midtown Apothecary on St. Thomas Street for a cool scoop of Davinci Gelato. McCurdy also encourages shoppers to visit Macrons and Goodies, a high-end, French-style pastry shop also on St. Thomas Street.

Within one block of the market, more than half-a-dozen established family restaurants offer a quiet breather from the noise. Check out Luisa’s Restaurant, Jack’s Burger Shack, Cerdo Tacos + Tequila, DJ’s Lounge and Pizzeria, San Remo Italian Bistro and Janos Turkish Café.

“We want people to enjoy the market but we also want them to come down and experience and enjoy the Perron district. There’s lots of opportunity to visit the restaurants and retail stores,” noted McCurdy.

For the past three years, at market day’s end, leftover produce is donated to the St. Albert Food Bank. Last year, vendors donated 7,500 lbs.

“It’s a way to give back to the community. They are really generous with what they donate.”

The market is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parking is limited. Park and Ride is available at St. Albert Centre from 9:40 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.

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