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Innisfail embroiled in public market kerfuffle

Town of Innisfail wants Market On Main to continue to be driver of downtown revitalization but chamber of commerce reportedly considering new location
MVT Market On Main kerfuffle
The future of Innisfail's Market On Main, created during the pandemic to boost the fortunes of downtown, is unclear this week following reports at town council on May 9 it may be moved to another location. File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL - The fate of the short but successful life of Market On Main in Innisfail’s downtown core is expected to be decided this week following recent revelations and deep concerns on town council it may move to a new location.

The downtown outdoor market between 50th and 51st avenues, an initial partnership between the Town of Innisfail and the Innisfail and District Chamber of Commerce, began with a four-week pilot project every Tuesday in late summer of 2020.

In 2021, Market On Main continued with a full season that was held on 14 consecutive Tuesday afternoons.

The weekly event was viewed as a primary summer attraction for the town’s new, jazzed-up look for the historical block of downtown.

This year the town, which had invested significant time, staff and funds to create the event, turned it over to the chamber’s exclusive control.

However, a bombshell was dropped at town council at its regular meeting on May 9 when Coun. Janice Wing, council’s representative to the chamber board, responded to mayor Jean Barclay’s query about an update for this year’s Market On Main, which was scheduled to start on June 21.

“My understanding from (an email) is that the chamber is considering relocating the Market On Main to the parking lot at the Henday Mall,” said Wing, who recently returned from holidays. “But that is all I know. I don’t know why. I don’t know what the purpose or what the goals are by considering that move.”

Wing added there was a chamber meeting on May 11 where she hoped to get more information.

On May 12, Wing told the Albertan the matter is “still up in the air” whether Market On Main will have a third season.

She said another meeting is planned for May 17 with a committee that was struck between the chamber and the town to determine a location for a downtown market, which could still be the current Market on Main or another location.

“The committee will come up with some recommendations to take to the board and to town administration. It’s not up to town council. We are hopeful to have an answer (this) week,” said Wing.

“I can’t officially say to you, ‘no it’s not going to move to the Henday’ but those conversations are continuing. It’s still up in the air,” she said, adding “time is of the essence.

“There will be a Tuesday market. It begins on the 21st of June and we’re still looking for vendors.”

Blaine Staples, the president of the chamber, was contacted by the Albertan on May 12 and had little to say about the controversy.

“I have no comment at this time,” said Staples. “There’s been no decisions made. All there’s been is some exploration of some possibilities.”

Staples added that while there was “nothing to talk about” the current plan was to “stay where they are.

“No plans have been made and that’s all I can say,” he said.

Following Barclay’s query to Wing at the May 9 council meeting, the mayor outlined her concerns with cancelling Market On Main.  

She noted the economic development strategy for the downtown as outlined in the 13 Ways report in late 2020 called for “creating downtown vibrancy” and Market On Main was designed to play an important role.

Barclay said the town also covered the leasing cost and development of the vacant lot at the southwest corner of 50th Street and 50th Avenue to create a rest area for downtown visitors, as well as a venue for musical performances during Tuesday afternoon’s Market On Main.

“Certainly, last year whenever there was more activity and music there was certainly more people that came to the market. The twinkle lights went up,” said Barclay. “I am hoping that message will get through; that we started to build this and maybe it hasn’t got as big as we were hoping but COVID hit as well.

“I am disappointed that it could be moving back to the parking lot at the (Henday) mall.”

Immediately following Barclay’s comments several other council members weighed in with their own concerns over the possible demise of Market On Main.

“I think there is something magical about having it on Main Street,” said Coun. Cindy Messaros. “There is an atmosphere that we would lose by moving it to a mall parking lot.”

Coun. Jason Heistad agreed, adding the issue goes back to the relationships it has with the chamber and how they are communicated. He also noted the town is currently looking at an additional investment of more than $100,000 for a mobile stage that could add even more vibrancy to the downtown core and to Market On Main.

Coun. Dale Dunham said it’s his belief Market On Main was “very successful” and there is a “ton of potential” for it to stay on Main Street.

“It really fits to what the vision was supposed to be about a downtown revitalization,” said Dunham. “I am disappointed if it does move. Hopefully we will have a better understanding what the rationale behind it’s move is.”