Couples lean on a railing as they watch a sailboat glide by George’s Island in Halifax, a family behind them laughing as they share a dessert on colourful chairs.
The Seaport Farmers’ Market is now open for the entire weekend for the first time since the third wave of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. The space on Marginal Road on the edge of the Halifax Harbour has only been open on Saturdays for the past two months.
The market claims to be the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in North America. It was established by royal decree in 1750.
Visitors can now check out weekend vendors, then stroll outside to the public walkway to enjoy a waterside view of the harbour on the “cruise brow.”
The brow opened for the season on Saturday, since once again Halifax will not see any cruise ships this year. Normally, the paved walkway is only used for cruise ship passengers.
Vendors said it was a slow but steady start for the Sunday market. There were fewer customers compared to Saturday.
Market visitor Bimla Rana said she was just happy to have another opportunity to get outside.
“With the pandemic and staying indoors, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air and it’s really nice,” Rana said, sitting alongside her husband and young daughter.
Although cruise ship traffic is important for local businesses, Rana said it’s great to have this rare time to sit outside the market along the water, without ships blocking the view.
The market’s new home at Pavilion 22 is just a few hundred metres from its former location. It moved to the new space in March, just before the third wave of the pandemic hit Nova Scotia.
While Rana said the new market is smaller than the former two-storey space, there’s still lots of room for businesses and she’s happy with the layout.
“It’s just about how you, you know, welcome the change. Because it has been done, and it’s for a reason,” Rana said.
Pavilion 22 is typically used in the summer to usher in cruise-ship passengers, and will now be home to market vendors throughout the winter.
“Because it’s got that lower ceiling and the exposed brick … it feels really warm and inviting for people when they get there,” said Halifax Port Authority spokesperson Lane Farguson.
So far, Farguson said the new location has been “very well received” from vendors and the public. He added that they waited to open the market on Sundays until they had enough vendors to make it worthwhile.
Artist Graham Voss had his prints on display at the market Sunday, and said while he’d like to see more foot traffic, he is hopeful that loosening restrictions will bring more people in.
“People just need to be aware things are reopening and to come out,” Voss said. “There are great vendors here. Have some fun, get outside.”
Currently, 150 people are allowed in the market building and vendors have to be physically distanced.
The parking lot at the north end of the port will soon be converted into a covered market, where Seaport vendors will welcome visitors for the rest of the summer.
But with no 2021 cruise ship season, Farguson said there’s no rush to move them yet.
Farguson said the market’s former home is now being redesigned as a “living lab” for the transportation industry called “The PIER,” which stands for “port innovation, engagement and research.”
He said it will be a place where companies come together to solve problems like reducing the number of container trucks in downtown Halifax.
Several founding partners have signed on, Farguson said, including the port authority, PSA Halifax (the lessee of the south-end container terminal) and CN Rail.
Construction will continue throughout the summer, and Farguson hopes people can move into the space this fall.