Amidst COVID-19 restrictions, community craft fairs look for new ways to reach buyers

·2 min read

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting the ability of people to gather, community craft fairs are trying to come up with new ways to connect local producers with holiday shoppers.

Even before Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's latest orders putting a stop to all in-person gatherings, many organizers had made the decision to cancel in-person sales because they worried it would put their vendors at risk.

"The majority of our vendors are retired people and people in the higher-risk age groups," said Miranda Kessler, a crafter in Prince Rupert, on B.C.'s North Coast. "It [holding a craft fair] puts them at risk, and it puts the customers at risk as well, because they're also in the higher-risk age groups."

One of Prince Rupert's major craft fairs, the Kaien Island craft fair was cancelled this year due to COVID concerns. Instead, the fair was cancelled and organizers published a list of online stores holiday shoppers could use to support local crafters.

A similar approach is being taken by the annual Studio Fair in Prince George in northern B.C., which was also called off in favour of a virtual market.

Dani VonShweetz runs a wood crafting business in Prince George and, because of the pandemic, she's been to only one craft fair this season. She says vendors like her are adapting to online shopping and selling as the new normal for their industry.

Submitted by Dani Vonshweetz
Submitted by Dani Vonshweetz

"A lot of [craft] makers rely really heavily on Christmas markets for their sales and for networking, but it's encouraging to see how makers are finding their way around it and in other avenues," she said.

Some crafts fairs have already moved forward with distancing guidelines and requirements to wear masks, but with new provincial health orders in place it's unclear whether others will be able to proceed.

In an email to CBC, the Ministry of Health did not say specifically whether craft fairs are banned under the new provincial health orders, but reiterated that all events and gatherings should be postponed and British Columbians should avoid travel to other communities.

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