The Red Deer Public Market will begin again for the season this Saturday.
The local farmers’ market offers a friendly, accessible environment and has been a hit among residents from around the area since its inception 44 years ago.
“It’s been 44 years, but it seems like it was just yesterday. Every summer, this is what I do. It brings a lot of visitors to town,” said Founder Dennis Moffat.
“We’re doing good work for the city, because people that come in from out of town to sell their stuff, buy their gas and lunches here. It’s good economics. My vision was to bring some money into Red Deer, and it has.”
Moffat proudly emphasizes the idea that everyone is welcome from meat vendors, to fruit vendors, artisans, non-edibles vendors and everyone in between. This year, in addition to regularly expected vendors, the market will even host a tarot card reader/soothsayer.
“You can buy anything there. You can buy anything from hockey cards to fine furniture, ice cream cones – it’s amazing. We say everyone is welcome, not set amounts of food trucks or anything. The idea is everyone is welcome.”
Moffat was the initiator in Red Deer’s Public Market. The idea came to him as he sat in a canoe in Ontario, daydreaming about life in Red Deer. He said he had a sudden thought and decided Red Deer, as both a cultural and rural community, needed a farmers’ market.
“My vision was to bring some money into Red Deer, and it has. Some people drive from, say Saskatoon, and they’ll stay overnight in a hotel just to attend our market. I can’t believe that people come all that way. It must be worthwhile for them.”
For Moffat, the satisfaction of the market comes from the crowds and the general mood about the market. He said the most important thing to him is being able to get up greet the first customers into the market, just as he’s done for over four decades.
“It’s a happy place. People are happy to be there, and that’s probably what brings me back.”
Shoppers can come enjoy a wide variety of products that are all personally guaranteed by Moffat. He said if anyone is unsatisfied, they are always welcome to let him know so that they can sort out the issue with the vendor.
This level of personal dedication to the market strengthens Red Deer’s community by promoting good relationships between small-time vendors and their clientele, he said.
Moffat said he prefers to keep the market outdoors versus setting up a year-round indoor facility. His reasoning is that he feels it takes away from the attachment to ”rural beginnings” and that outdoor markets are accessible, clean and are less expensive to operate.
“We’d have to charge people an exorbitant amount of money to be (selling their goods) there. And all we’d have is a dirty grocery store.”
Moffat said he looks forward to continuing to run the market until he can no longer physically do so. He’s been happy to see businesses such as Parkland Nurseries start as a booth in his market and flourish from there.
“That makes me feel good.”