Joan Rezansoff will be retiring as head of the at the Loon Bay Craft Market this fall. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press)

Loon Bay Craft Market organizer calls it a day

Joan Rezansoff retires this fall after running market for more than a decade

At the Loon Bay Craft Market’s final day of the season on Sept. 5, Joan Rezansoff will be there, as usual, selling her homemade relish and her daughter’s red pepper jelly.

She will organize the vendors, pay the Loon Lake Resort for the use of their lawn, and collect any money they raise for Breast Cancer Awareness. At the end of the day, she and the other vendors will each donate a craft to three baskets, before drawing the names of three lucky winners.

And then – and more than a decade-and-a-half running the market – Rezansoff will hand over the reins to her successor, Amy Mitchell, and retire.

“I’d love to keep doing it but I’m going to be 80 and I’m tired,” Rezansoff said. “I’m going to keep crafting and baking but the running of the market has to go to someone younger.”

The market, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, has been a labour of love for Rezansoff, who intends to keep her crafts table and be part of the organizing committee for the big celebration. She already has ideas for the party: a map with pins where people can mark where they’re from, a guestbook, and photos of past and present vendors who have come to the Interlakes to sell their wares.

When she started, there were only 12 vendors; last year that number rose to as high as 46. It’s dropped a bit this year due to COVID-19, which has meant a “lot of precious vendors” couldn’t come out, but there’s been a huge increase this year in terms of potential buyers.

They aren’t disappointed, Rezansoff said, noting the vendors have unique items, from wooden toys and games to handmade slippers, crocheted baby clothes and woven wool rugs as well as jams and jellies. Local musicians Richard Minato and Marco Bueler swap turns every weekend as volunteer entertainers.

“We’re seeing a lot of people coming out we’ve never seen before because they usually go south and they can’t go there anymore so they’re staying at the local resorts. They like what they see,” she said. “It’s a very special market. There’s no bickering and we don’t talk politics because we’re on private property.”

COVID-19 has made the job a lot harder this year, with Rezansoff logging 180 hours on the phone. She doesn’t take a nickel for her work. Vendors pay $10 apiece and whatever is left over after paying the Loon Bay Resort for the use of their lawn is spent on advertising. The Breast Cancer collection is separate: three cans are placed around the market – at her table, at the musician’s area and her husband’s hotdog stand.

The collection, which has raised thousands of dollars for the charity, was started years ago by a musician who had played at the market and whose mother and mother-in-law both died of breast cancer. At the time, Rezansoff said, she and two others also had breast cancer and embraced the charity.

“Since then, there have been two more,” she said. “We’ve just kept it at that and everybody seems to be ok with it, including the guys.”

The market runs from the May long weekend to Labour Day from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Rezansoff credits the success to people like Minato, Bueler and Helen Hicks, who generously donate their time to it.

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” she said of Hicks. “It’s our singing, our vendors, who make our market. People are happy, people are nice.”

Rezansoff intends to continue going to market, with her baking and preserves, while her husband will keep serving hot dogs.

“It’s a very simple crafts market. We make no money at this and I’ve never taken a penny,” she said. “It’s rewarding when you see people selling what they bring and everybody’s happy.”

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Helen Hicks and Joan Rezansoff at the Loon Bay Craft Market. Reznasoff will be retiring as head of the market this fall. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press)

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