Yukon craft fair season a success despite COVID-19, organizers say

·2 min read

While the season may have been off to an uncertain start, organizers behind two of Whitehorse's largest Christmas craft fairs say COVID-19 didn't keep Yukoners from coming out in droves — albeit in a physically-distanced, masked-up way.

The 12 Days of Christmas Market, which ran at the Kwanlin Dün Culture Centre from Dec. 9 to 22, saw its most successful year ever in terms of sales, co-manager Cascia Krolczyk told CBC.

"I think the community really came out to support local, which was amazing," she said.

"It was really a support-local kind of year and you can really feel that around the community and it really showed in the success of this market this year, for sure."

While organizers had been uncertain about what attendance would look like with pandemic restrictions in place, Krolczyk said shoppers were respectful of the rules and also followed suggestions to avoid coming during traditional peak busy hours.

"Attendance was very different this year … (Shoppers were) really spread out during our open hours and we didn't have those huge rushes, which were really great," she said.

Submitted by Darren Holcombe
Submitted by Darren Holcombe

Chief medical officer, premier backed fairs

While the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a quieter craft fair season than usual in Whitehorse, at least five of them received the green light from health officials.

Yukon chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley said in November that the care that had gone into each fair's safety plans was "impressive," and advised Yukoners to "use your best judgment and common sense" while shopping.

Premier Sandy Silver, meanwhile, had encouraged people to shop locally this holiday season, saying people should aim for "less Amazon and more Spruce Bog."

'Bright spot' in a 'crappy year'

Like the 12 Days market, the Spruce Bog Christmas Boutique, which ran at the Old Firehall from Dec. 4 to 22, also saw "more substantial sales" in 2020 compared to previous years, Yukon Crafts Society president Judy Matechuk said.

The society is now in its fifth year of organizing the boutique, but Matechuk said all its usual plans and strategies "went out the window" this year.

"It was a bit of a nightmare just not knowing when cases were increasing three weeks ago if things would even happen, but we went through all the protocols we needed and everything worked out," she said.

Matechuk attributed the increase in sales this year to people not going on holidays and spending their travel money locally instead. She also heard from both vendors and shoppers that they wanted some sense of normalcy in otherwise strange times — even though everyone had to wear masks and stay two metres apart, there was something familiar and soothing in the ritual making or shopping for Christmas gifts.

"Somebody was saying this was such a bright spot in a pretty much crappy year," Matechuk said.

"If we can do this in a pandemic," she added, "I think we can do anything."