A meeting between organizers of the Great Canadian Bike Rally and the Nicola Valley Farmers Market produced few, if any, results earlier this month.
Rally organizers invited businesses and volunteers to meetings Sept 30 and Oct. 1. To discuss any issues.
Vendors with the Farmers Market say they were not consulted with, left out of plans between the city and the rally, and as a result, say they were displaced and lost two-thirds of their earnings when they were told to leave, July 16, from their rightful spot at the parking lot behind the Royal Bank, a place they have set up for years. The rally main stage, spectator area, and beer gardens were set up in the same parking lot for the four days of the rally, July 14-17 last year.
Paul Fairfield, vice president of the GCBR, argues that the farmers were the ones being difficult—"disgustingly abusive"—and were consulted with well ahead of time. He says their defiance, when asked to leave, provoked a call to the RCMP, who ended up actually saying the vendors had a right to be there.
The City of Merritt's response, that it was basically not a big deal because it's just one day of the year that the farmers would lose their spot, is careless. And it's no consolation that the vendors would benefit from the increase in traffic because of rally attendees. Attendees are there to party, not to plan their next homemade meal. Rally organizers even charged market vendors for setting up, about 40-feet away from their regular spot. Seriously?
While it is good for the community that the Great Canadian Bike Rally brings in tourist dollars, it is no reason to displace a long-standing tradition in town—a tradition which some farmers depend on to make a living.
Vendor Millie Mitchell says she has no problem with the rally itself and hopes it will go on for years but says she is outraged with the way things were handled, saying the farmers market was merely an afterthought to rally organizers.
Fairfield says he will wash his hands of this and leave the responsibility to the City of Merritt, which kicked in a $10,000 grant to get the rally going in its first year.
Next year's bike rally is scheduled for July 12-15, which will also fall on a Saturday, farmers market day.
With both events being important to the community, the City will have to better prepare for next year's rally so that everybody is happy and nobody is displaced. The rally was well attended and entertaining, but the farmers market is also well attended and vital to the community.