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Kweseltken Farmers’ and Artisan Market now an annual event

The market’s second season has been operational since late June and is running every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the end of October. The market ran for only two months in its inaugural year of 2020.
Kwelsten market
The Kweseltken Farmers’ and Artisan Market celebrated its grand opening in August 2020. It is now in its second summer of operation.

The Kweseltken Farmers’ and Artisan Market has seen a dip in vendors and attendance during its sophomore year, but organizers have established the event as an annual weekly one from summer to fall.

Launched amidst the COVID-19 pandemic last summer due to demand, the market hosts numerous Indigenous artists and farmers.

George Casimir, general manager of the Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations, which organizes the weekly event, said there have been more than 30 Indigenous vendors on average, as well as some 20 non-Indigenous vendors last year.

Due to pandemic restrictions, customer attendance couldn’t breach 150 and was kept in the 130-person range.

“It was a great attraction for us and our collaboration with Tourism Kamloops and TOTA [Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association],” Casimir said.

This year, however, those numbers are about half of what they were in 2020 and Casimir suspects a number of factors have hindered participation — wildfire smoke, extreme heat, wildfire evacuees and the market’s new location.

Casimir noted one vendor dropped out due to the 40 C heat and other, elderly vendors packed up early one weekend due to the wildfire smoke.

The market took place at the Kamloopa Powwow Arbour last year, but due to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc housing wildfire evacuees at that location, the market this year moved to the former Kamloops Exhibition Association building in the Mount Paul Industrial Park a few kilometres away.

Casimir said the new site has the drawback of not being right by the highway to draw in patrons, as did the Powwow Arbour location.

"We were doing our best to increase signage and awareness of the market,” Casimir said. “You need to be somewhere where there’s high traffic.”

Beginning on Aug. 22, however, the market will move back to its original location at the Powwow Arbour at Highway 5 and Shuswap Road, and Casimir expects numbers to normalize.

The market’s second season has been operational since late June and is running every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the end of October. The market ran for only two months in its inaugural year of 2020.

“We just saw the need and it’s amazing when the vendors tell us things like if we didn’t open this up, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to make the dollars they need to help sustain their crafts and small farms,” Casimir said of running longer this year.

He said the market was launched last year because Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations saw a lack of participation from Indigenous vendors in the twice-weekly downtown Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market, so it opted to open one on the reserve.

Kweseltken, in Secwépemctsin, means “family of our relatives,” Casimir said, and is why the market is offered to everyone.

The project is intended to support local First Nations communities and tourism in the region and is open to all growers and artisans in the area.

At the market, people can find all sorts of goodies — from handmade drums and beaded jewellery to gill nets, fresh eggs, pastries, vegetables and fruits and homemade traditional medicines.