Close to the centre of my little city of Fredericton is a special place that opens it's wares every Saturday morning all year long.......Boyce Farmer's Market. Like many towns and cities, it is where people congregate to buy locally grown or made products. But any market is much more than that. It is the historical touchstone of its community. It is the crossroads chosen by the residents that pulls together people from all corners of the area..............urban, rural, acadmic, blue collar, political, business.......farmers, artists, musicians, tourists, babies, families, entrepreneurs,
students, kids, politicians. The Boyce Market represents the merging of the Saint John River Valley in a way that nothing else does.
I have always had a tendancy to gravitate to markets, most likely because I used to go with my parents many Saturdays to the Hamilton market when I was young. There we would be surrounded by wonderful Italian cheese and meats as well as the local produce.......the most amazingly juicy tomatoes grown anywhere. When I attended university in Kitchener-Waterloo, a city surrounded by Mennonite communities, I often headed there to taste such delicacies as shoo-fly pie and Oktoberfest sausages. As I travelled through Europe with my backpack, we would always make a bee-line to the city centre market to take in the multitude of colours and aromas of the local fare...........everything from cut flowers to freshly baked baguettes..........to the unidentifiable meat hanging off hooks. Any time I visit a new city, I like to check it out. It tells you a great deal of the community and it allows you to meld into it, even for a brief moment, even as a tourist. So, for the past 19 years living in Fredericton, I have been a dedicated patron of the Boyce Market. It is the focal point of my Saturday morning routine.
Since this is true market season........let me take you on a tour. Early morning is best, before the crowds start to congregate. Crisp fall air, with a little big of fog hovering over the river.
Already there are wafting scents of sausages cooking on the Bar BQ's. We enter the outdoor section through "food alley" filled with multi-cultural vendors selling mouth watering scrumptious treats. Souvlaki pitas, samosas, falafels, German and Italian sausages, waffles made right in front of you with maple syrup drizzled on top and a sprinking of icing sugar, wantons, spring rolls, bears claws (fried dough sprinkled in cinammon).......... there's a busker guy playing to the crowd. He's known around town as an Elvis impersonator for hire (he's been known to arrive at an office for a birthday seranade all dressed in Elvis regalia) On Sundays, he's a preacher and on Monday nights, he opens the door of his multi-denominational church to the homeless and offers up a social evening of good cheer. "Mike" is the first of many characters at my market.
Usually I stop to chat with Joey. She's from Thailand and used to work with my husband at the University. Joey sells the best spring rolls and noodles. Her piece de resistance are thinly sliced sweet potatoes dipped in a secret batter and deep fried. Yummy. Joey has a soft spot for my daughter Martha because about 5 years ago, I lost her in the crowd for a scary 15 minutes. As a group of us rushed through the market searching for her, my daughter made her way back to Joey's stall because she knew she could trust her and knew that Joey would look after her. Since then, Joey always fills a little bag full of sweet potatoes for "her girl" to take home.
Once past food alley, you enter a square that is set up in three rows of vendors selling everything from fall mum plants that are bigger than your arms can hold, to gladiolas of all shades, to fresh local blueberries and crunchy MacIntosh apples, gourds, multi-coloured hand knit hats and sweaters, tie-dyed shirts and
skirts and baby clothes, tole painted garden ornaments, jams, jellies and homemade purses.........herbs and cut flowers............ kindling, and four foot high cut sunflowers. Of course, and most importantly there are the farmer's stalls heaped high with summer's best. This is where you would find my friend Finnan wearing a baseball cap decorated with a cabbage leaf on top of it. He's selling carrots, "air cooled" corn and of course cabbage along with a host of other fall vegetables. His outgoing friendly banter and his absurd headgear often creates a line up at his stall. One Saturday last year, he decided to adorn every kid's head that he could get his hands on with a cabbage leaf............in no time the Market was filled with children proudly walking around showing off their
new fashion accessory. He has a way with kids even though he won't admit it.
Inside the building that was built in 1951 specifically to be used as a Market, you will find two large rooms filled with an array of goods too numerous to mention. It's a combination of artisans, jewelry makings, photographers intermixed with a terrific cheese stall that has been run by the same family since I started going.
Several bake tables displaying pies, squares, cookies, cinammon buns and elaborate pastries await the market goers....................organic produce, meat and seafood, greek baklava, bread, apple cider, samosas, a small section for a restaurant, fruit smoothies, a couple of tables of "flea market stuff," quilts, lamps with beautifully designed shades.....................all are there for admiring, and purchasing.
I love the multi-sensory feel to the place..........the colourful chatter and busyness feeds my attachment to living in Fredericton. It is always lively. It always resonates with the seasons and with the events that are unfolding in the area. Today for example, the university students have returned. It's Frosh week, so the students are out in small armies collecting money for Shinerama........an annual fundraiser to collect money for Cystic Fybrosis. Candidates for the upcoming provincial election are strolling through talking to patrons and passing out buttons and brochures. There's a stall set up selling tickets to next week's Harvest Jazz and Blues Fest, an annual bash that transforms the downtown core (and the Market at night) into a festival of
music. I like the fact that this place is reliably constant, but has a fluidity of new to it as well.
Markets often define the community.............for Fredericton, it is a snapshot of our history, and it is the link between urban and rural. It has been going on in this city since the early 1800's in different locales all within walking distance of the present location. And as it continues to evolve, I will continue take it all in.................wanna join me?