Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Photos by Bert Crowfoot
With her friends posting on social media the beautiful crafts and clothing they were creating during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, Amberly Morin decided she would blow the top off of COVID-19 once most of the restrictions were lifted.
She understood the mental health challenges of being cooped up in a “COVID bubble” and the need for her friends – and other artisans – to have a wider market to sell their items.
“There’s no place in Edmonton that you can find these one-of-a-kind crafts,” she said.
The result? The Night Market and Entertainment Showcase in the north parking lot of the River Cree Resort on the Enoch Cree Nation just west of Edmonton.
Morin, manager for the newly created tourism department for the Enoch Cree Nation, says there were about 7,000 people taking in the festivities on July 15, the first of four days for the event.
Morin admits she could have focused on only a vendors’ market, but a work trip she and Chief Billy Morin took to Vancouver a few years back where they learned about the Richmond night market convinced her to give it a try.
Morin, who serves on the Enoch powwow committee, knew that handcrafted items would sell well. After all, every year the Enoch powwow attracts visitors from all over “and they come and they buy arts and crafts. They want earrings. They want ribbon skirts. They want moccasins. So I knew there was a demand for it within the city of Edmonton and there’s just no place for them to buy. You have to be connected to somebody on Facebook to make that sale. So we wanted to create the space for both artisans and people who want to buy the work.”
And the night market is that space with more than 70 vendor booths with arts and crafts, farmers’ market items, and mobile units to buy smudges and medicines. There are about a dozen food trucks as well.
Live acts also add to the atmosphere with The Hip Experience, a Tragically Hip cover band, highlighting the event. Remaining hours are 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
“Things just happened organically,” said Morin. “So we said, let’s just make this an experience.”
For the past five months, Morin worked alongside Jayne Behm, director of marketing at the River Cree, to pull off the event.
“It’s been a crazy past few weeks getting everything organized, but we just couldn’t believe our eyes last night,” said Morin of opening night.
Sunday’s event is a matinee and will be a family-friendly event with face painters and balloon makers and cotton candy and everything a kid can want.
The event is free.
While Alberta has done away the majority of its COVID-19 restriction measures, Morin says they’re letting people know that while masks are optional, they are recommended. There are also hand washing and hand sanitizing stations on the ground and a crew that cleans up garbage and wipes down tables.
Morin says this year’s night market is the kick-off for what will be an annual event.