Even COVID can’t keep a good market down

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
August 26 2020

SHERBROOKE – Proving that not even a pandemic can keep people home on a beautiful summer day, more than 200 socially distanced St. Mary’s residents attended Sherbrooke’s first community market of the year on Saturday, August 22.

The brainchild of local volunteer Gabriela Schupbach – who inaugurated the weekly event last spring and ran it till just before Christmas – the 2020 launch was a long time coming thanks to government health concerns about public gatherings.

“It was scary,” she told The Journal, explaining: “This is not a registered market. It’s really a grassroots meeting. But, we had to get everyone’s name. I was chasing people with my binder. . .in case someone showed up to fine us. I was terrified till [opening].”

None of which was evident as comfortably masked men, women and children gambolled up and down Main Street to take in the smells, sights and sounds of about 20 busy vendors hawking their wares. “We had a good spread,” Schupbach said. “There was food and lemonade, jewelry, the Eastern Shore Clothing Company, and homemade [greeting] cards. Of course, we had the band.”

In fact, “the band” – which still has no official name – may be the closest thing the market has to a brand. “It’s really just my very good friend Michael Porter and his friends playing and hosting an open mic kind of deal for three hours,” she said. “This time, because of COVID, people had to bring their own mics. They just take turns singing songs. Last year, the band raised over $2,000 for the food bank.”

For Schupbach, who counts on social media and word of mouth for promotion, the market is a dream come true. “I’ve wanted something like this for years,” she said. “But I just never knew how to get it going. I found [my] first vendor selling veggies at a gas station last year and I suggested they set up for free in front of my house on Main Street. It grew from there.”

Now, she hopes the event – given its popularity and despite social distancing – will take on a life of its own. “I don’t want to have to sign up everyone myself,” she said. “Patrons have to sign in and wear masks if they approach a vendor. I’m thinking the vendors will make it self-regulating.”

For now, she expects to remain hands-on at least until the end of the season: “We’re going to work on keeping it weekly, even if it’s just one guy selling veggies.”