Summer is in full swing, and St. Albertans are starting to emerge from their homes to enjoy the sun, scenery and what few events are still taking place.
If there was any doubt that people have been chomping at the bit to get out and about after months of social distancing and isolation, the crowd that gathered at Servus Place Saturday morning for the opening of the St. Albert Farmers' Market was a sure sign of how eager we are to re-enter some semblance of normality – rain or shine.
The success of the farmers' market's inaugural day at Servus Place, drenched by a downpour of rain on a dour and chilly weekend, speaks to the visceral impact social isolation has had on us. People are desperate to get outside, to help our city reopen and give themselves a mental break from the banality of a summer marked by widespread event cancellations and facility closures.
For the 150-some vendors who are selling their wares at this year's farmers' market, seeing thousands of people interested in their products must have been a welcome sight indeed after the battering Alberta's economy has taken from the COVID-19 shutdown.
The ability to celebrate this uniquely St. Albert event – and to look forward to other local St. Albert hallmarks, such as Rock'n August, continuing in some form – paints a hopeful sign as we begin the arduous process of emerging from economic and social shutdown. Still, not all is as it once was: this year's farmers' market is marked by strict safety measures, hand sanitizer, social distancing and no sampling of food or beverages allowed.
The meticulous work the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce has done this year to ensure safety standards are in place ought to be applauded. It couldn't have been easy to come up with such significant alterations to an inherently public and social event that would make it safe for residents, but our local business advocates rose to the challenge. That sends a hopeful and heartwarming message to businesses that have been surviving at sea in the pandemic's storm.
These safety measures are necessary and prudent ones, if we want to avoid a second shutdown that could accompany a potential resurgence of the virus. We saw an unfortunate increase over the weekend in the number of COVID-19 cases reported by the province – after a week of low increases, there were 40 new cases on Saturday and another 64 over Sunday and Monday, bringing our total number of active cases in Alberta back up to 355.
Those numbers remind us of the need for caution as we move ahead. We're all aware of how past pandemics have had second, and in some cases, third or more waves, and it's essential we prevent that from happening this time. Let’s try our best to be safe so our businesses can continue to reopen and hopefully enjoy the pent-up demand the farmers’ market received.