The Sturgeon Falls Beautification Committee held its first market of the 2023 season on Saturday May 27th, with an impressive 68 vendors, music and food and a constant flow of browsers filling the King street ‘Joie de vivre’ parking lot (home to Stella the Sturgeon). “I think it was the most successful so far since this was our 3rd year, and the amount of people that came through, I couldn’t believe it. Usually, by mid-morning or early afternoon it quiets down, but it never really quieted down. Some people were coming in and I had to tell them it’s done,” beams Gayle Primeau, Lead of the Beautification Committee and the summer market founder and organizer.
This is Primeau’s 3rd year putting on the market, which will happen once per month until September. The first time in 2021, the market was quite different. At the time, it ran every weekend, and with COVID measures too, which also meant masks and hand sanitizer for all the vendors. “The first year we decided we would do it weekly. […] The problem is that it was a job, I was working 24/7,” she describes, adding that she was always striving to do better each week, which was a lot of work. “In the end, I didn’t even see the summer.”
In 2022, Primeau decided to move to the current model of doing the market once a month. That year, she saw 41 vendors sign up for the first one of the season, and with a much larger list of vendors came a new set of issues. “When we had 41 vendors, that’s when I looked at the lot and said ‘well, we can’t get them all in at the same time. There’s only one way in and out, so we’re going to do it in steps,’” she recalls. It took the effort of volunteers to start directing traffic, and some pre-planning on how to divide the lot and decide who went where.
These days, the market is bigger than ever, and the concerns about getting nearly 70 vendors crammed into what Primeau estimates is a 13,000 square foot parking-lot are ever-present. However, since that big increase in vendors from the 2022 season, she now has a tried-and-true system. “So, they come in at 7:15, and usually we have everybody in by 9:15. I send messages prior to [the market]. Several messages to the vendors with rules like to be respectful, to be patient, to respect your time [slot],” she describes, adding that “as long as everybody listens, it usually works out.” However, despite having a good system and experience, she says it’s still stressful. “Stress level starts usually on the Thursday, and I usually don’t sleep the Friday night because I start thinking of the ‘what ifs,’” she laughs, adding that by 9:15am she’s “high on adrenaline.” When asked about why she goes through so much stress and planning, Primeau simply says that “if you’re going to do a project, do it well.”
Although there is a lot of work involved with the market, one area where Gayle Primeau is not struggling these days is with attracting vendors. “I started in January and got all my vendors. Within a month I had everybody, it was all booked,” she explains. The Sturgeon Falls market has earned a reputation, and these days vendors are approaching her asking to participate. In fact, she already has 71 vendors signed up for the next market on June 24th. However, that doesn’t mean that she’s not still looking for more people. “I’m working with cancellations, and if vendors are kind enough to let me know [if they’re cancelling] prior to [the market], then I can fill it up,” she explains.
Primeau says that she tries not to double-up on similar types of vendors and is always on the lookout for unique offerings. “I’m hoping to get some farms in, or something like that,” she says, adding that food and produce vendors are always quite popular. Vendor fees that she collects for each booth go towards the endeavours of the Sturgeon Falls Beautification Committee to spruce up the downtown. Examples she mentions are the recent purchase of a plaque and lights for the Marina the Mermaid sculpture overlooking Minnehaha Bay, QR codes for all the downtown murals, lights, and flowerpots that are going to be placed along King Street soon.
Beautification Committee reaches 7-year landmark with lots to show for it
Downtown beautification is another long-term project for Gayle Primeau, as this year marks the 7th year since she started the SF Beautification Committee. “Today is the exact day that I took a broom, and I cleaned underneath that bench 7 years ago and started all this,” she recalled during an interview on May 31st. She is referring to the park bench on King Street, in front of the Giant Tiger parking lot. “Every time we went for a walk I’d complain, and just [thought] ‘well maybe you should do something about it instead of complaining.’ That’s basically how it all started, but I never thought it would evolve to this,” she recounted, adding that she was embarrassed about the state of downtown Sturgeons Falls all those years ago. One thing that struck her was seeing litter and dog feces all over, but “no garbage cans, so even if you had something you couldn’t throw it out.”