Maxine & Klaas Rienks remember the first Revelstoke farmers market way back in July 1987. It got rained out.
“We didn’t even get set up that first one because it was pouring,” Maxine recalled. “It was beautiful weather after that.”
The Rienks earned their place in local history by being two of the original vendors at the Revelstoke Farm & Craft market. The market was launched by the Chamber of Commerce, who hired two high students to put on events for the newly-built Grizzly Plaza.
One of their ideas was to hold a farmers market. A call for vendors went out and Maxine and Klaas were two of the first people to respond.
Maxine made baked goods and Klaas produced wooden toys. At the first successful market day, Maxine sold out in a hour.
“I came home and I was just elated,” she said.
“Toys don’t sell as quickly as baking, but you did well,” she added, looking at her husband.
I interviewed Maxine and Klaas at their home on Sixth Street West, perched above the community centre, in the room that used to serve as Maxine’s bakery. Locals used to come and go to pick up the goods in between market days.
The Rienks have lived there for 46 years after moving to Revelstoke from the small farming community of White Wood, Saskatchewan, where Klaas ran a service station.
As the farming industry began to struggle, so did the station, so the two decided to pack up and move out west with their three children, Jim, Lori and Sandy.
“Things weren’t going well for the farmers so they weren’t paying their bills,” said Maxine. “Klaas decided, maybe come west and see if there are better opportunities.”
Their first stop was Natal, a since-abandoned coal mining community in southeast B.C., near Fernie. After that, they came to Revelstoke, where Klaas got a job as a mechanic for the highways ministry and Maxine worked at the hospital.
They arrived here in the spring and weren’t sure if they would stay. “After one winter and the difference in the temperature, I wanted to stay,” Maxine said.
For Klaas, the story was a little bit different. He was a mechanic at the camp at 50 Mile on Highway 23 North (about where the Goldstream River is today).
That first winter was 1971-72, when snowfall records were set in Revelstoke. Almost eight metres fell in town and more than 24 metres fell on nearby Mount Copeland – a Canadian record that stands to this day.
“I’d never seen so much snow in my life,” said Klaas.
There was so much snow, they couldn’t keep the road open. They had to be flown into camp and spent two weeks shovelling out equipment and getting the highway open.
The farmers market was supposed to be a retirement job for the two of them, but it evolved into much more than that. Maxine was able to leave her job as a nurse in the operating room at Queen Victoria Hospital and focus on baking full time, and every week she would whip up more than 100 loaves of bread, dozens of buns, squares, butter tarts, doughnuts and more.
Klaas used his woodworking skills to make toys. He started with little logging trucks, but over time made bigger and more complex toys like rocking horses and sand diggers. He’s best known for his little red wagons people still pull around town.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of wagons,” he said.
Maxine and Klaas witnessed the changes to the market over the years. The first summer, there were only five vendors and they sold from under the band shell. Despite that, it was a hit, and instead of being held every two weeks as initially planned, it was held weekly.
The original vendors included Emma Grecco, who also baked, and Sandy Zacker, who sold knitted goods. In the second year, Janet Spicer started bringing her vegetables from Nakusp, helping to cement the market’s place as a weekend shopping and social gathering destination.
“It was exciting and nervous for us. People did come out and once they knew what we were selling, they kept coming back,” said Maxine.
Maxine sold at the market for 11 years, and Klaas a bit longer. They watched it grow and have stories, like the time someone pulled up with a big truck and tried to sell hot tubs, or the time someone came by with kittens and puppies for sale.
While they’re not regulars at the market anymore, they still recommend it to any friends who come visit.
“I hope the farmers market carries on for years to come,” said Maxine.