Leading up the holiday season, Christmas markets are always a fun place to browse and shop local.

The annual Christmas Market in Kemptville is no exception. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraiser for St. Michael Catholic High School almost didn’t happen.

The indoor market had to be cancelled, but Darlene Collin of My Local Markets made sure the market could go ahead this holiday season, albeit a bit differently.

"I was like 'oh no, the craft fair is being cancelled this year?' We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to do something for the vendors who come every year and we have to do something to help the school," said Collin.

Collin’s children go to St. Michael Catholic High School and she is on the parent council.

With My Local Markets set up on the Kemptville campus, she knew there was enough space to hold the event outside in their parking lot.

"This is a fundraiser for St. Mike's. The proceeds from the vendor fees are going to St. Mike's Parent Council, which helps cover technology costs and different activities that happen in the school throughout the year," Collin said.

"It covers computers, smart boards, science in the classroom, different causes that happen throughout the school year," Collin added.

"Schools actually get very little to operate those programs throughout the years, so parent councils do all the fundraising for that and with COVID all fundraising - hot lunches, popcorn - all the things that they typically do are put on hold cause people can't gather and volunteers can't get together to be able to do something like that."

Although the indoor event could host over 100 vendors, only 50 were allowed in the parking lot to practice physical distancing.

Only 100 people were allowed in the market at a time, moving in a one way direction through the vendor displays.

That meant a long lined began to form around the block at the campus for people waiting to get in .

But that didn’t bother people waiting in the colder temperatures on Saturday.

"I’m here to support our local economy and just to get out," said Chantal while standing in line.

"It’s always a good thing to come out to the craft market and it helps support the high school here in town.," said another couple in line on a grassy hill.

"The weather is not that bad."

Others who had already been through the market said they had a fantastic time.

"Come early, dress warm," one woman said with a laugh.

North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford said it was a wonderful location for the Christmas market.

"The St. Mike's craft sale every year is highly anticipated, so to have the opportunity to do something similar but safer on our beautiful Kemptville campus, we’re just so proud and pleased that we were able to do something to mark the holiday and also to give local vendors a chance to sell their items before the holidays," Peckford said.

"It really just sort of enforces that Kemptville and North Grenville is a beautiful place to visit, a beautiful place to shop. We have so much outdoor space here on Kemptville campus, it’s a beautiful location."

"People have been really great and really excited," said Collin. "I think once they see all of our decorations and hear the music and they come out people will be in the holiday spirit."

Collin notes they've seen 250-300 people come out for the night markets, and they were expecting a "fairly decent" turnout this weekend in Kemptville. 

Even Santa Claus showed up to take physically distanced photos with children.

"Santa is being a little bit flexible with the naughty list because I know it’s really tough this time of year for everybody so Santa is being extra generous," he said.

"I love you all and I know we’re all going through a tough time. Remember one thing - Christmas is not cancelled, just the Santa’s visits. So Merry Christmas everyone! Stay good...Santa loves you all!"

The market is open on Sunday, Nov. 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kemptville Campus, 75 Campus Drive in Kemptville.