The Tofino Public Market has become too popular for the Village Green to contain and council has granted permission for its vendors to, temporarily, spill onto the street.
On June 25 a portion of Third Street—between Malon Lane and Neill Street—will be closed to vehicles and reserved for market vendors and shoppers.
Tofino’s council recently gave the market permission to use the street—councillors Ray Throgood and Duncan McMaster were the only votes in opposition—but balked at the market’s request to use the nearby basketball courts.
“It’s a Saturday. Kids are out of school. We have very limited recreational facilities. It’s the summer,” said Coun. Cathy Thicke. “I drive by that [court] and there’s a lot of kids who use it and I don’t think we should, in any way, preclude kids’ activities on a Saturday; especially an outdoor basketball court this town has funded.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette agreed but asked if Third Street could become a permanent fixture in the market’s experience.
“I’m sensitive to the need for more space and I’m thinking where could we possibly put more space? I’m wondering if we might want to close Third Street every market day,” he said. “It’s sort of a street party atmosphere. People walking up and down the streets, I think, would enhance the appeal of the market and wouldn’t be that big a traffic disruption.”
Mayor Josie Osborne said the intent of the society’s request was to try out the street and see how it goes.
“It’s a question of managing space and demand and it’s great that the market is so successful,” she said. “This is the kind of problem we want to have.”
After the meeting, market coordinator Anne Weeks told the Westerly News the market is currently packed with about 50 vendors and about 20 more are on a waiting list.
“There is a system in place for vendors on the waiting list. Reserved spots cost $200, are for vendors who plan on attending the majority of the Saturdays throughout the season, are non-refundable and non-transferrable, and priority is given to West Coast residents,” she said. “We also keep a few spots open every Saturday for drop-in vendors at $20 per day.”
She believes adding Third Street to the mix could make room for another 10 vendors and agreed with Blanchette that it could become a permanent move.
“We want to see how it goes logistically and how it is received by the public and surrounding businesses,” she said adding the basketball courts were a backup option if the street was deemed inappropriate. “The Market strives to work in conjunction with surrounding public recreational facilities…so taking up the courts on Saturdays is not really desirable.”
Weeks is thrilled to see the market’s popularity consistently increasing among both vendors and shoppers and she believes it has become a valuable Saturday experience for locals.
“It is truly a gathering place for our community, a place to see our friends, watch our kids play and support our local artisans,” she said. “The Tofino Market is the perfect place to come and grab a snack, watch some live music and browse for unique artisan products. Or try your hand at a workshop like cedar weaving or soap carving, let your kids get creative in the free PRAS Kids Arts & Crafts tent, and just hang out in the sunshine in the heart of downtown. In my humble opinion as Market Coordinator, it is the best place to be on a Saturday.”
She added the assortment and variety of vendors helps create an enjoyably eclectic experience from the Tofino Community Food Initiative (TCFI) to kids peddling handmade wares.
“The TCFI is working hard to bring together local backyard gardeners and sell their fresh produce, as well as coordinating with small farmers in the Port Alberni area to bring farm-fresh products and make them available at the Market,” she said.
“The Tofino Market has become more professional over the past few years, but we maintain availability for all types of vendors, including smaller tables, or even blankets, kids and youth, and people sharing booths to help offset the fees.”
The market kicks off its new season on May 21.