This Father's Day, June 21, legions of locals will wind their way up to the Upper Village for the first Farmers Market of the season to delve into seasonal goodies like handmade gelato, freshly popped kettle corn, or maybe even a steak rub to take home.
Rick Clare first formed Whistler's Farmers Market 14 years ago with the help of David Roberts and Bernie Casavant as a way to boost traffic near their businesses during the summer months.
"I'm just glad that it's surviving and as it's evolved, now it's more of it's own entity," he said in a recent interview.
Today, with the help of local businesses like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb, the market has grown to become a weekly staple of many locals' weekends, drawing throngs of people to the Upper Village to browse stalls lined with fresh produce, ready-to-eat goodies and local artwork. It's also recognized as one of the best Farmers Markets in the province, and is set up as a not-for-profit society: the Whistler Farmers Market Association.
So, why is the market so popular?
"Part of it is the socialization that people go through, they see their friends, they have a chat - and you do see locals, plus tourists interact with the locals," Clare suggested, "It's one of those true melting pots, it's kind of how we developed the village to be."
While the focus of the market has been - and always will be - on local produce and food goods, aside from the farmers and orchardists who sell their wares every week there's also a vast array of crafters and artisans, baked and preserved goods, jewelry, photography, paintings, textiles, woodwork, body products, glassware and pottery vendors who are fixtures at the market.
Despite being early in the season, there still promises to be a solid selection of produce on offer at the first market, including greenhouse-grown organic heirloom tomatoes and other veggies, plus fresh asparagus and last year's root vegetables from Pemberton.
In the first year of the market, just 30 vendors were involved in the event. This year, however, they received over 100 applications which were juried using a points system. Points were allotted for Sea to Sky residents, returning vendors, organic goods, and more. They've also given a spot to Prior to set up a booth to talk about their ski and snowboard business.
"They're going to come and talk about how it's a Whistler success story, and it's the kind of thing that says 'this is done in Whistler' and you can take a tour of the factory... It shows that Whistler is diversifying, even though it's the sports industry."
This summer expect to see familiar and fresh faces selling an array of berries, soaps, fudge, kettle corn, fresh lemonade, gelato, free-roasted fair-trade coffee, certified free-range beef from the interior, plus foods geared towards people with dietary restrictions.
Last year, organizers decided to reinvest some of the market's profits into beefing up their entertainment offerings, with live musical performances by local musicians to add to the festive atmosphere. Their efforts seem to pay off, and this year organizers plan to continue to build their entertainment offerings by enlisting the talents of local artist Vanessa Stark, who has come on board to paint live and face paint kids.
The market runs from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. every Sunday, starting on June 21 and running until October 11 in the Upper Village. Don't forget your reusable shopping bags - you'll need them!