• Nick Zacharias

Finnegan’s Market on hold for June

PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

The field and barns at Finnegan’s Market, usually bustling on Saturdays with flea market vendors and visitors from all over the map, have been tranquil so far this summer as owners ponder how to safely operate while respecting government requirements during the pandemic.

Finnegan’s, the family farm turned open-air flea market that’s been a Saturday staple for almost half a century, has announced they’ll remain closed for at least the month of June. That’s unwelcome news for a lot of weekend treasure hunters, not only from Hudson but as far as Montreal, Ottawa, Vermont and beyond. The provincial government continues to gradually loosen COVID-19 restrictions, but with the large number of vendors and visitors Finnegan’s gets on a typical summer Saturday, they are struggling with the logistics of how to open safely.

Still hoping to open

It isn’t time to hold Finnegan’s’ wake just yet.

“We’re still hoping we can open” says Aird family matriarch Barbara, “but with all the restrictions it’s very difficult.” The flea market was started by the Airds (who aptly named it for their dog, Finnegan) in their fields and barns 48 years ago – and with all that history it’s no small thing to see a season start without the market open.

Says daughter Betsy, “We have vendors who’ve been coming here for 10, 20, or 30 years or more. Ron Trudeau, the ‘mirror man’ who sets up by the house, told me how sad he was that in all these years it was his first time not spending Saturdays in Hudson.”

Crowd complications

On the surface, it would seem that an open-air flea market is an easy thing to re-open under social distancing rules, since every store with an outside door has been allowed to open for some time. Even other markets, like the Sainte-Anne’s Farmer’s Market, have done it. But in the case of Finnegan’s they have some extra concerns.

Sanitation like outdoor washrooms and handwashing stations are one thing, but the sheer volume of traffic they see from across regions is another. Anyone who has been to the market on a sunny day can attest to how quickly the small stalls can get crowded with eager customers.

“We don’t want to control the numbers by blocking off the parking lot and backing up cars all the way along Main Road” says Betsy Aird. “And a lot of our vendors are of an age where they would be considered at risk as well.” That includes her mom Barbara, still living in the main house, who appears indestructible but is so welcoming and open that they would worry for her exposure too.

Want to do it right

“We have vendors who’ve been coming back for so long that really they’ve become like family,” says Aird. “Some of them do this more as a sideline, and there are also those that are fulltime on the market circuit. Either way, it’s hard to see their incomes so affected by all of this.” She equally laments the loyal customers who have come to see Finnegan’s as a touchstone for their summer lives. “I had someone tell me, ‘My heart is at Finnegan’s,’ while sharing a story of how they picked up all the furniture for their kids’ first apartments here. We hear stories like that all the time.”

With that kind of family feel, they are determined to come back, but also to make sure no harm comes to anyone. Says Aird, “We’re watching the regulations, and we know people want to come back, but we also know our vendors support us when we say that when we come back, we want to make sure we do it right.”

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