189th DTES Street Market at Pigeon Park in Vancouver Downtown Eastside (DTES) on Sun Jan 19, 2014

189th DTES Street Market and THIRD  Street Market of 2014

Roland Clarke, Coordinator of the DTES Street Market says:

There is no other festival in the Downtown Eastside that can boast almost 200 event-days. This little street market is not only the heart of the Downtown Eastside, but possibly the largest historical event of the Downtown Eastside for all time. 

It was a beautiful sunny day. Quite unusual for this time of year in Vancouver.

We had music, the theme was English Ska of the 70s and 80s – and a few people started dancing in front of our tent.

There were tons of vendors – 205 set up at noon. This is bigger than any count in months and near a record for the year. If this is an indication of the demand that we will see in the summer, then we really need more funding to provide better security and crowd control.

The great thing about the DTES Street Market is the social communication. You see people from all walks of life talking, negotiating, and enjoying the day.

On Sunday, Pigeon Park becomes a real town square where people can bump into people they haven’t seen for months and catch up.

Since this area was a traditional native trading ground (known as Lek Lek’i), and the market vendors have large native representation, we feel we are re-kindling this native trading village every Sunday with our market.

The City of Vancouver should be proud to embrace this truly unique event.

At about 1pm there was a huge commotion from the crowd. Everyone started to look up and point. Twenty Eagles circled over above the market for several minutes. There was much excitement from crowd, and some people even started to cry. This is considered a great blessing, and we are definitely touched.

Here is a video of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrdQ5tkIhiI

I took the time today to look around at many of the customers, and tried to judge what percentage were from outside the DTES or not. We have done a statistical analysis of 50/50 draw amounts and shown that the pots are no longer tied to the welfare cycle – indicating that much of the money flows now from people that are likely outside the neighbourhood. Also, just anecdotally one can see now that our positive press over the last year is really turning the tide and one can see many couples and families walking through the market.

Walking through the market at about 10am, I noticed an amazing pile of vinyl records – perhaps 200 of them. A guy named Dale comes to the market every now and again and buys coffee from me and we chat. He owns a record store on Union street and always makes a point to ask me if I have seen any vinyl at the market. He immediately saw the huge stash of vintage records and we chatted again as he bought coffee today. He said that there were 4 or 5 other professional buyers that come to the Street Market every Sunday to scope the scene like he does. He noticed they were bidding at the table and was waiting until the buzz subsided. This is also a great sign for the market that store owners are coming here looking for product!

I spoke to a couple that was buying coffee, the man had a European accent, so I asked him where he was from. He said “Belgium”. I asked him what he thought of the market, and he said “we love it”. He promised to go back to Belgium and tell everyone how great the Pigeon Park market was in Vancouver.

Arts and Crafts were sold today by the DNC Women’s Committee. Some great origami cranes made into fridge magnets and broaches. More men seemed to be interested in the art than women, and there were a few sales by boyfriends as gifts to their sweethearts.

One of the strangest appearances at the market ever – was a bit of DTES history. The old Asahi baseball sign from Oppenheimer Park made it to the market. It was beaten and tattered and left at the end of the day. We just could not let this go into the trash, so we strapped it to the top of my car and drove it to our lot. It is a sad day when such an important piece of history is discarded like this. Perhaps we will clean it up and mount it on the side of our container.

It has been a while since I have described the volunteer responsibilities, or outlined market operations, so here you go…

It amazes me how smooth and well oiled a machine the market has become. With a tiny budget of less than $600 per day, we have transformed the market using the amazing power of our many devoted volunteers that make on average $3.50 per hour. Here is a run down of what they do every Sunday. It is a great description of the Street Market as a venue for the employment of marginalized DTES residents. We had to slowly tweak and change every aspect of the schedule you see below over the years to make sure that the shifts were not too long and that we had enough people at every stage to ensure that the jobs could get done.

Here is a great video of volunteer activity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V95ulDbFEZQ

7:30am – Jacek and two other morning clean up volunteers arrive at Pigeon Park to sweep up any mess that remains from the weekend bridge and tunnel partiers.  They also set up the perimeter fencing. Jacek also starts brewing the coffee at about 5am, and goes back and forth to his SRO to prepare the 150 cups we will sell during the day. The two morning clean up volunteers work from 7:30am to 9:00am and get $10 each.

8:30am – I arrive, park my car next to Pigeon Park.

9:00am – RPICs arrive and use chalk to define vending areas, mark where we are going to set up tents, and make sure that we have access for wheelchairs and so forth.

10:00am – The Marshalls, Guards, and Setup Crew arrive. Everyone gets a vest. 10 volunteers arrive in total at this time, and if anyone is late, we have to “fish” out their job to someone at the market to ensure that the position is filled. The guards are assigned areas to patrol (the no vending areas), and the rest to to 62 E Hastings to retrieve the rest of the equipment. When the volunteers return, the road is closed and the tents are set up, and tables are distributed. The market now truly begins. Two Marshalls patrol the market, enforce the rules, and pick up trash for a four how shift (10am-2pm) and receive $13.50. Three Guards enforce no vending areas for a three hour shift (10am-1pm) and receive $10.

11:00am – the tents are all set up, the tables are all distributed, the Set Up crew gets paid $10 for their effort (5 members of the team)

12:00 – Jacek does a vendor count and starts selling 50/50 tickets.

1:00pm – Afternoon Guards arrive and morning Guards are paid. RPIC#2 from the morning gets paid and is replaced by the afternoon shift.

2:00pm – Afternoon Marshalls arrive and morning Marshalls are paid. I walk around the park and collect the tent and table rental money. RPIC#1 gets paid for morning shift and afternoon replacement arrives.

4:00pm – The 50/50 draw takes place, signalling the beginning of the clean up phase of the market. The afternoon Tear Crew arrives and takes all the tents and gathers all of the tables. Vendors are warned that the street will open at 5:00pm. The clean up crew arrives (two volunteers that wait until the garbage truck arrives).

5:00pm – Carrall St. is opened. The equipment is returned to our container at 62 E Hastings. The Tear Down crew is paid out $10 each. The Clean Up. RPIC#2 from afternoon gets paid ($7/hour) and leaves.

6:00pm – The afternoon Marshalls are paid out (2 x $13.50) after helping to close Pigeon Park to vending.

6:30-7:30pm – The garbage truck arrives and takes are huge pile of garbage away. The volunteers make one final trek to 62 E Hastings and return the clean up cart. Clean Up crew gets $15 each. RPIC#1 from afternoon gets paid ($7 per hour) and leaves.

7:30-9:00pm – I go home, count the money that we made at the market and write the weekly report.

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