EDMONTON -- For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, NOSH Food Fest re-opened its doors for in-person shopping.

The market featured 50 local food and beverage producers from the Edmonton area on Saturday at the Strathcona County Community Centre.

Vanessa Antoniuk, the event producer and owner of Kingsley Events, said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton that it has been a tough year for local vendors since they have not been able to easily reach customers with the pandemic.

She added that while the market had tried online sales last summer and during the Christmas season in-person events always generate more interest.

“While (online markets) are a nice option for supporting local vendors, it really helps in coming out and interacting with the vendors – seeing and hearing what their products are all about.”

The market has Alberta Health Services’ approval and has COVID-19 protocols in place like mandatory masking and social distancing.

Lorraine Paltzt, owner of Super Dips West and a vendor who took part in NOSH Food Fest, said events like this beginning to happen again safely is encouraging.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “We have suffered a lot. We have lost a lot.”

Paltzt added that its one thing to see a product online but another to actually get expert advice, recommendations, and have questions answered in real-time.

“It’s so nice to actually interact with your customers. They can see your face and they can literally start to buy your product again.”

Gibson Patterson and Grachella Garcia, owners of Gibbo’s Handmade Pepper Sauce, said they hope NOSH is the first of many markets re-starting.

NOSH Food Fest

Gibson Patterson and Grachella Garcia, owners of Gibbo’s Handmade Pepper Sauce, at NOSH Food Fest (CTV News Edmonton).

Patterson said the pair are excited to get their business out there more and capitalize on a lot of interest in supporting local businesses.

“COVID created a community of helping each other out and supporting local business,” Garcia said. “It’s our first market ever.”

“We are enjoying (that) support now.”

Antoniuk said there will be another NOSH Food Festival in September.