As tourist numbers drop off with the arrival of autumn weather in Penticton, the Saturday downtown market starts to shrink. What was a full three blocks, overflowing onto side streets, during summer’s peak period, has dwindled to the 100 block of Main, and features mainly autumn fruits and vegetables, as most of the artisans have packed up for the season. Empty streetscapes and blowing fall leaves leave a slightly haunted feeling, as one almost senses the ghosts of busy markets past.
But most October market days the famous Penticton sun still shines, though its rays are at a lower angle, the skies are a paler shade of blue, and the shadows are longer and cooler. Booths that remain are still stocked high with healthy, organic produce, now with the amazingly bright colours and crunchy textures of autumn apples, squash, pumpkins and gourds … and a final few fresh tomatoes, as night temperatures have dipped to frosty levels and bid adieu to most of their compatriots.
Dried flowers and colourful sprigs of fall ivy replace bouquets of summer flowers. Root vegetables supplant spring and summer legumes, greens and cukes. A brilliant riot of drying hot peppers, along with numerous varieties of onions and garlics, promise delicious soups and stews in the cold months ahead. A great sunflower, loaded with ripe seeds, droops its heavy head in the chilly morning air. Sweet summer corn is long gone, but polka dot Indian corn on drying husks promises cozy winter nights, with popcorn popping in the fireplace.
The few remaining artisans booths offer cozy blankets and knit hats and mitts. Even most of the buskers are gone, though a remaining few, wrapped in scarves, bravely strum their guitars and play their fiddles with cold red fingers. The market itself is still crowded with enthusiastic customers – and their four-legged friends – but the majority of shoppers are locals, wrapped in fall sweaters, and stocking up for the snowy months ahead when the market will sit empty and silent, waiting patiently for the fresh new greens of spring to appear.