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'It's time for a change': Royal Bison craft fair prepares to close for good

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One of Edmonton's biggest and longest-running craft fairs is coming to an end.

The Royal Bison Art and Craft Fair has been an staple shopping stop for many Edmontonians over the last 16 years.

"We're retiring," said organizer Vikki Wiercinski, who has been involved with the fair for more than a decade. "Sixteen years is a long time to do anything. Many of the organizers have been involved for a long time.

"It's time for an evolution. It's time for a change."

Flannel Foxes, an ethically-made local clothing company, joined in 2016. The owner said the craft fair has helped his company grow.

"At the time we were a blog considering the idea of becoming a clothing company," said Michael Lundy. "Royal Bison gave us the opportunity to try that without high stakes.

"We could just come sell some T-shirts and hats. We didn't have to be a big thing."

Lundy has since collaborated with the Edmonton Oilers and Juno Award winning artists like Dan Mangan.

"Vikki and the organizers have done such an incredible thing for Edmonton's arts community," Lundy said. "There will be something new and beautiful, but it is bittersweet for sure."

The final few weekends are a bittersweet time for long-time vendors.

Heather Thomson, of the Alberta School of Business, said these types of markets give businesses an opportunity that online retail can't – a chance to meet with customers and get feedback in person.

"You don't know why people are maybe putting something in their [online] cart and not purchasing," Thomson said. "Whereas having that direct access to consumers as they're looking at your products right then and there, that's really important."

While the Royal Bison is saying goodbye, there are plans underway to ensure vendors have somewhere to go.

A new big market called the Odd Bird Craft Fair will launch in the spring.

Wiercinski said she won't be involved with the new fair, but it will have Royal Bison DNA.

"It's gonna change and evolve and hopefully the creative community will still get to have a craft fair for a really long, long time," she added.

Shoppers can get their final fix of the Royal Bison Art and Craft Fair Sunday until 5 p.m.

The final fair runs Dec. 1 to 3 at the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre.

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