School is back in session in Keremeos, a summer’s worth of bright, sunny hot days have given way to damper, cloudier, more fall like conditions, and the number of campers and trailers on Highway 3 have greatly diminished since Labour Day, when campers, trailers and motorhomes filled local fruit stand parking lots and lined the adjoining highway shoulders.
Tourist season is coming to an end – but it was good while it lasted, according to Keremeos’ fruit stands.
“It’s been a great growing year, and we’ve had good (tourist) numbers,” said Sue Frasch of Bears Fruit Stand at the eastern bypass junction.
Frasch felt the great summer weather was an incentive to get people on the road this year, although she felt the fruit stand did not see as many families as in other years.
“One theory I heard was families with school aged children might have taken their holidays earlier in the year,” she said, “or they might have had to spend their vacation budget on child care.” Frasch said they noticed an increase in higher income families this year.
“I think the weather helped to contribute to people’s moods, “ Frasch said, “our customers have been wonderful.”
Frasch also noticed an increase in traffic related to events at the Grist Mill, particularly on Sunday, September 21 during the mill’s first heritage harvest fall fair.
“It was really busy all day,” she said, “a lot of our traffic was coming off Upper Bench Road.”
Fruit stand staff were busy last week placing their famously colourful fall harvest displays. Several visitors could already be seen using the colourful backdrop to take photos of members of their group.
Kam Sandhu at SS Produce on the Keremeos bypass reported a “Busier summer than we expected,” after the fruit stand opened for the first time this spring.
Sandhu said only their own produce is sold at their fruit stand, which opened on June 20.
“We have a big property – we don’t like to buy as we have lots of room to grow our own ,” she said. Sandhu expected to be open until the end of October.
Jass Chahal at Gerry’s Fruit Stand at the west end of the bypass also reported a busy summer, noting things had fallen off considerably last week with the start of school and the changing weather.
Quinton Parsons was busy packing fruit for one of several customers at Parsons Fruit Stand, on Highway 3 just west of Keremeos.
“I think it was good,” he said, “I’m not sure, because I haven’t been keeping track on a daily basis.
“It’s always more competitive,” he said, noting the increasing number of fruit stands lining the highway in and out of Keremeos.
“I’m always busy myself, so I don’t take the time to analyze,” he added.
Parsons is developing a market niche supplying restaurants with specialty produce, and is finding that aspect of business serves to assuage fears about the increasing number of fruit stands locally.
“I like to be creative, to do more than just grow a lot of product,” he said, “We’re producing specialty items like finger cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes – our restaurant business has doubled in three years.” Parsons continues to look for ways to develop that side of his business.
Parsons said the growing side of the business went very well this year, with everything maturing earlier, and the the growing season in general ending earlier. He said that was helpful, as the various harvests were ripe in time to take advantage of the larger numbers moving through the community.
“We were really busy last Wednesday,” he said,” and again on Sunday, but this week, traffic has dropped considerably.”