A Bad Day With A Camera

Before Dark Market

The town merchants got together and hosted the Downtown Before Dark Market here in Strathmore, Alberta, from 5 to 8 pm on Saturday, May 4th. It was a pleasant evening. Not too hot and the howling wind from earlier in the week was gone, replaced with a gentle breeze. It is still early enough in the year that you can step outside without losing a pint of blood to skeeters inside of five minutes.

Busy street, Before Dark Market, Strathmore, AB, 2024-05-04
Father figure, Before Dark Market, Strathmore,
AB, 2024-05-04
We’re here for the honey, Before Dark Market,
Strathmore, AB, 2024-05-04

I am told that Sagestone Spa, Mainstreet Market, Willow Tree, Maggie’s Nest, and Lil’ Hoots were the main instigators. That last one is not a surprise. Denise — the owner — is one of those indispensible people in a small town. If something important is happening you can usually find her in the background organizing, motivating, you name it. The woman is a machine.

Lattes served fresh daily, Flip Flop Coffee Shop, Strathmore, AB, 2024-05-04
Side view, Nanaimo Bar, Flip Flop
Coffee Shop, Strathmore, AB,
Over the top, Smoked BBQ chicken
panini, Flip Flop Coffee Shop,
Strathmore, AB, 2024-05-04
Doin’ it fancy-like, Nanaimo Bar,
Flip Flop Coffee Shop, Strathmore,
AB, 2024-05-04
Close-up, Smoked BBQ chicken panini, Flip Flop
Coffee Shop, Strathmore, AB, 2024-05-04
Dem goodies, Flip Flop Coffee Shop, Strathmore,
AB, 2024-05-04

One of the best parts of the Before Dark Market for my wife and I was the opportunity to visit businesses that are normally closed when we are off work, preventing us from patronizing them. Flip Flop Coffee Shop is one of those places in town that everyone tells me is fantastic, but I wouldn’t know because they are only open from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm Mon thru Fri. I work those hours and can never make it down there.

We finally did last night and it was worth the wait. I had originally planned to hit the taco truck or one of the BBQ food trucks because they are all excellent. The problem is that I’m middle-aged now and the stuff I love to eat no longer agrees with me. As much as I live for good beef brisket, it’s no longer worth sitting up in my chair all night with sulphur burps after I’ve had some. We went to Flip Flop where we each got a Smoked BBQ Chicken Panini with a Nanaimo Bar for dessert. The panini was flavourful, moist, and on point. (As a bonus, it didn’t make me sick after.)

The Nanaimo Bar was incredible. It tasted just like the ones my mom used to make. Not too sweet, just the right texture in the base, and they nailed the custard for flavour and firmness. This is hands-down the best one I have had since my mom passed. It is going to be difficult to not buy out their stock next week. It is rare and wonderful to find a small biz that bakes their own stuff and does it this well.

Also worth mentioning that the prices at Flip Flop are still reasonable given today’s inflation and the store is obviously well-cleaned and practicing good food safety (I’m a former chef so I watch for this).

Marketing bug, Before Dark Market, Strathmore,
AB, 2024-05-04 copy
Those eyes, Before Dark Market, Strathmore,
AB, 2024-05-04 copy

One of the vendors farther down the street was selling cookies and she had the most adorable VW Beetle behind her stand. We didn’t get any of the cookies and we kind of wish we had tried them. My wife and I bought a pair of cupcakes from a vendor for $4.00 each and they were okay, but really sweet and a bit dry. If we see Beetle Lady again we’re trying her cookies.

B-Ranch Smokehouse, Before Dark Market, Strathmore, AB, 2024-05-04

The B-Ranch Smokehouse food trailer was busy the entire time we were there, and for good reason: Their food is lit. We’ve had their stuff before and it’s aces all the way. Their distinguished competition, Hunger Paynes, was the other BBQ food truck in town operating at the other end of the street. They also seemed to be doing well, which they deserve to because their food is also top shelf.

Across from Hunger Paynes was Tacos Quetzal, and I think they are from Calgary. I didn’t get pictures, but they were doing a brisk business. I have eaten there before when they were in the Rona parking lot this past winter. Very fresh tasting, well-prepared food.

As for stores visited, I finally got to check out the Smoke Shack, which is all things grill, BBQ, and smoker related. They had some incredible Pit Boss smokers there and it was all I could do not to hug one in front of the store’s owner. I’m going back to get some of the sauces and rubs, but I am making myself use the last stuff I purchased first. I’m bad for buying these things and not using them.

My wife got a pretty set of earrings from a young lady — obviously still in school — who is funding her way to Ringette tournaments. It’s always nice to see kids earning their way to things that are important to them instead of just asking for handouts. Betting this gal goes far as an adult.

All-in-all, it was a great evening out, we got to visit and buy from businesses we hadn’t been to before, and it was really pleasant to get out and see everything. The entire event had an upbeat vibe where you could tell everyone was just happy to be there. I hope the town merchants have a few more of these this year because I’ll be happy to go to them.

Today’s camera was just my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra mobile. It’s nice to go out for an evening without humping around a large bag of gear.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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