Salt Spring Market In the Park: unique shopping experience

flowers at the market
Salt Spring musicians
pottery at Salt Spring market
kale chips at Salt Spring market

Vendor sells fresh flowers in the Salt Spring market

Buskers entertain at the Salt Spring market.

A potter's wares on display at the Market in the Park.

A visitor samples kale chips in the Saturday market on Salt Spring.

Salt Spring’s Saturday Market in the Park is a kind of legendary shopping experience akin to Chiang Mai’s night bazaar or a Moroccan souk, but with one major difference: everything sold there is created on the island by local artisans or food producers.

With an average of 150 participants setting up in the early hours each week, the market offers a range of goods no less plentiful than the most exotic trading crossroads.

Art, jewellery, hand crafts, body products and soap, clothing, musical instruments and cards are among the souvenirs that visitors take away with them. Gifts to brighten a short stay include fresh produce, cut flowers, smoked salmon, cheese, baked goods and bread. Munchies to enjoy on the spot speak to every palate, from thick breakfast burritos to refreshing popsicles made with fruit juice or yogurt.

One long-time vendor is jeweller Terry Warbey, whose handcrafted silver work depicts iconic west coast symbols such as orcas and sand dollars. Like so many market sellers, Warbey says the personal interaction with the public is the best part of his Saturday.

“I get to meet people from all over the world,” he said. “It’s so rewarding to see how many people my work has given joy to, and to see them buying jewellery and passing it on like heirlooms.”

Andrea LeBorgne of Monsoon Coast Spices is in her eighth season as a marketeer and loves to watch the ebb and flow of vendors, locals and visitors, and the energy new vendors bring each year.

“Change has been a constant over time,” she says, “but with it there is a strong contingent of islanders who cruise by nearly every week, supporting the vendors and bringing their onslaught of visitors by to taste ‘the best butter chicken sauce you’ll ever try,’ and to experience the groove of one of the best artisan markets anywhere.”

In 2016, the Market in the Park is open every Saturday from March 26 to Oct. 29. Hours are approximately 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

No dogs are allowed in the market, but a “doggy daycare” service is operated by the local BC SPCA branch during summer months from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

— Elizabeth Nolan