By Nicole Trigg
Though rumours have swirled through the community for years, the news the Invermere Farmers Market is actually moving out of its long-term 6th Avenue location will still be greeted by dismay and disbelief.
The market, after years in the making, has become a downtown Invermere mainstay and as much of a local attraction as the quaint main street and nearby Kinsmen Beach. Its no secret theres been strife between the market and nearby businesses who have resented the honorary not-for-profit status granted by the District of Invermere while its waited patiently for Julia Oaks to register. Meanwhile, business owners have been paying rent and property taxes only to see competing vendors cash in on the summer weekends with very little overhead.
Concerns were also voiced last year about how the market approached the 2014 Valley Appreciation Day, when the downtown was closed to traffic and the market set up on pedestrian friendly 7th Avenue with vendors facing each other, their stalls backing onto the sidewalks, effectively forcing the crowds to walk down the centre of the street instead of where the love could have been shared between the market and storefront businesses. Then again, theres the argument that the businesses have benefited because the market has brought more foot traffic to the downtown.
Regardless, the district has now thrown down the gauntlet and whether it works or not remains to be seen. Either the situation will resemble the recent Alberta election in which Progressive Conservative party leader Jim Prentice did the right thing and called an early election, only for his party to lose the majority of its seats with him resigning from politics forever, or the new direction will inspire a more constructive and collaborative relationship between the new market and local businesses that focuses more on mutual enhancement than competition.
But wherever the market moves to (the Athalmer Highway area is a likely destination), the crowds will surely follow, because the vendors are just that good. So while the district feels its doing the right thing for its taxpaying business community, the short-term consequences may be temporarily painful until the new market makes it. Crafty vendors will have booths at both, unless exclusivity is part of the deal.