Fair November, the University of Guelph’s popular artisan marketplace, usually takes up a lot of space in the University Centre each fall. But like so many other events this year, the fair has moved into the virtual space as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Virtual Fair November runs online from Thursday, Nov. 12 to Sunday, Nov. 15. This is the event’s 46th year.
Last year, the University attracted numerous visitors to view works by 85 of Canada’s talented artisans and designers, with booths filling up the main floor and basement of the UC. The juried fair is open to vendors who market only genuine, handmade goods.
This year’s web edition involves more than 100 vendors, offering original creations in crafts including woodwork, pottery, knits and wool, jewellery, food and fabrics. Without physical space restrictions, this year’s virtual experience allows more artisans to participate.
Customers have a chance to win a $200 Visa gift card by signing up for email updates.
Fair November has partnered with Bruce County Nut and Fudge to offer a uniquely curated box of artisanal favourites at a special price. A portion from each sale will go to the University’s United Way campaign.
“We are very optimistic that it will be a successful event,” said Mike Calvert, the University Centre’s operations manager who helped organize the online event. “We’ve had a great amount of positive feedback from community members based on what they’ve seen on the website. Our artisans have been phenomenal to work with and very appreciative of the opportunity to continue with the show this year.”
Calvert said even before the pandemic, organizers had planned to create a hybrid fair with in-person and online sales. COVID-19 shifted those online plans into high gear.
“One of our biggest goals for Fair November was creating more of an online presence,” Calvert said. “We had developed the main site itself and had started to put some of the main pieces in place. Once we got a better sense that we would be moving to a virtual show, we were able to use that existing platform and enhance it to create a very strong experience for clients and the artisans, making sure they had a good, dynamic presence.”
The site connects users to each artisan’s online shop.
The University decided to host a fair this year knowing that the livelihood of artisans has been severely affected by COVID-19, said Calvert.
“The biggest thing that captured our attention and motivated us to go with the fully virtual model for this year was the significant amount of challenges that our artisans have had over the past year. Most of these people are entrepreneurs and small businesses owners. Much of their business comes down to participating in these types of fairs and shows, many of which were cancelled.”