The organizers of the third annual Rodney Kiwanis Night Market welcomed more than 2,000 guests to the temporarily closed Furnival Road in Rodney.
Following a wildly popular event two years ago in 2021, with more than 3,000 people in attendance, and last year’s frigid and windy blowout, the sun shone down Nov. 18 on vendors and guests, who window shopped and then purchased decorative Christmas items for their homes from the broad selection of gorgeous items made from wood, shrubberies, coloured pine cones, birch branches and twigs, glass, wool, and myriad other substances.
Oh, and did I mention the freshly baked donuts, fritters, pies, and bread? The sweet maple syrup and candy? Caramel popcorn and hotdogs and burgers? And of course lots and lots of hot chocolate and steaming coffee? Thanks to all of the food vendors and local eateries, the shoppers were well fed, as the weather grew rather chilly at the evening market.
My favourite part of any such communal gatherings is the renewal of friendships and acquaintances, seeing former students and the children! Grandparents, parents and children were visting and laughing together while sharing stories, back slaps, hugs and so many glowing smiles.
Adding to this festive atmosphere were our very special guests and helpers, the West Lorne Comets, of whom the Kiwanians are sponsors. They once again scurried around, with their family and siblings in tow, pushing shopping carts to gather the thousands of can and boxes donated by attendees to the Caring Cupboard. A warm thanks and well done to them, and to all who donated to help out our neighbours who are in need at this challenging time. Thanks, as well, to those who gave cash donations for the food bank. Greatly appreciated was the assistance of our youth volunteers again this year: Keegan Begin, Caleb Vadasz, Taryn Byers and Caroline Masschelein.
We owe a debt of gratitude to all who supported our 50-50 draw to support youth sports and activities in our community (a slightly political note here: we are one community – West Elgin, and must stop thinking of ourselves as two or more separate entities!) Kiwanians sold tickets right up until the moment of the draw, totalling 762, I believe. The winner of the draw was Deb S. of Rodney. Rodney Kiwanis looks forward to being able to support youth activities in West Elgin even more this year, thanks to buyers’ generosity.
Many of our roughly 60 vendors expressed delight and satisfaction with their sales, and the food venues also did a steady business throughout the evening. Also present were many local non-profit organizations: Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Caring Cupboard, Fair Vote Canada, Lidup, Kiwanis Clubs of Ridgetown and West Lorne, the Rodney/Aldborough Agricultural Society, the Rodney Lions, the West Lorne Optimist Club, and the West Elgin Fire Department. Thanks as well to our youth vendors!
The Night Market hummed along, in part, thanks to the performances by Jukebox Jenny, Runaway Angel (featuring local phenom Stacey Zegers), Mike Meacher and Connor Wilson. These groups came from the Harmony & (S)Hops Festival, now permitted to perform their lovely and lively tunes in a mosquito-free environment.
Our Blue Boxes for Books were set up, and 74 happy children and their families received a free book from our program, run in conjunction with Investing in Children and six local locations. Remember to give the invaluable gift of your time and reading, listening and discussing books, even with infants. Remember, you are assisting in their brain development with each word spoken or read aloud!
The wonderful staff of the Rodney Library welcomed 119 children during the Night Market, readingThe Night Before Christmas for them. The kids and the staff had a marvellous, festive time! The attendance was double that of previous years!
A huge thanks goes as well to our co-sponsor, the Municipality of West Elgin, and the County of Elgin and staff for permission and setting up the barriers to close off the portion of Furnival between Harper and Victoria streets. Kudos to president Becky Byers and past-president Mark Szusz (and Brenda) for doing much of the heavy lifting to get the event organized and underway, and to all Kiwanians who came out early on Saturday afternoon and who stayed late, assisting the vendors in taking down and packing up, until 8:50 p.m.
All in all, the third annual Rodney Kiwanis Night Market was a triumph. We wish everyone happy and safe holidays, and remember, the best gift that you can give others is your time, talents, love, and presence! And if you do give physical gifts, please buy local!