Royal Bison returns in person, just in time for the holidays


A mainstay in Edmonton's craft fair scene is back for the holiday season, and it's happening in person for the first time since before the pandemic began. Royal Bison kicked off its online sale last week and will return to the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre on Dec. 3-5 and Dec. 10-12.

"It'll be slightly different, but that community feeling will be there. And the incredible work will be there," said Vikki Wiercinski, who is the lead organizer behind the Royal Bison and a designer with her own Mezzaluna Studio.

Supply chain challenges around the globe have led to warnings that it might be difficult for holiday shoppers to buy the gifts they want when they want them.

The crunch has affected the Royal Bison somewhat, in that it's been challenging to access Square credit card readers for the door, and some vendors have had trouble getting supplies. But for the most part, materials have been available in the smaller quantities makers need, Wiercinski said. Plus, since they buy them locally, it's a boost to the local economy as well, which is especially important a year and a half into the pandemic.

"(Makers) rely on sales to continue doing what they do and to continue paying the rent every month," Wiercinski told Taproot.

"We really all need to shop local, it is so important right now in the economy. One way to do that is the Royal Bison but honestly ... just spend your money at something you're sure is independent this season. The effect of that will be really big."

A collage of arts and crafts such as jewelry, socks, and ceramics

There will be 40 Royal Bison vendors selling in person each weekend, and about 140 vendors also have wares up for sale online. (Supplied)

There will be 40 vendors at the in-person event, down from the typical 70 to account for pandemic precautions. The fair will also offer two community tables. The Mitchell Art Gallery is selling "art soda," a collaboration between public art duo big rock candy mountain and the Edmonton Arts Council.

"They hung out with a bunch of music program students and designed bottles and labelled a soda based on these kids' imagination," Wiercinski explained.

And Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts will also be selling art as a fundraiser online.

Royal Bison will offer a different set of vendors each weekend, with little overlap. People can buy advance tickets to guarantee their hour-long slot online, and they can also walk in (though there may be a wait, in order to maintain low numbers).

Double-vaccination is required for entry.