Matthew Ogilvie-Turner had no idea that he had scored the highest-profile sale at Bizarre Bazaar last weekend — until a group of wide-eyed girls alerted him.
The 14-year-old was selling his popular sock monkeys as part of Bratz Biz, a craft sale for young entrepreneurs that has been running in conjunction with Bizarre Bazaar, Whistler’s long-running artisan fair, for the last three years.
Sales had been strong on Saturday (Nov. 29) when two kids came running up to his booth, positioned near the entrance of the event at the Whistler Conference Centre.
“They started playing with two of the monkeys and throwing them around and having fun with them,” Ogilvie-Turner said.
A man, their dad, he assumed, asked the kids if they wanted the monkeys as the one item they were allowed to pick from the bazaar. They said, “Yes.”
“He was like, ‘These are awesome!’ He asked me if I made them. I told him yes and my mom helped me,” Ogilvie-Turner said. “He bought the brown one and the blue one. The more traditional ones.”
When the man and children walked away from his table, a group of girls came rushing up. “’Holy!’” Ogilvie-Turner recalled them saying. “’That was Usher! Did you get an autograph or picture?’”
He told them that he had had no idea the man was the eight-time Grammy award-winning R&B star. “They were just like, ‘How could you not know it’s Usher?’ I knew what he looked like, but I was more of a fan when I was little,” he said, adding, “A bunch of my friends went to his concert in Vancouver on Friday.”
Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council, which has been organizing the bazaar for the last 26 years, said she wasn’t all that shocked by the celebrity sighting.
“Whistler attracts all kinds of different people,” she said. “Obviously it’s an international resort, so I’m not surprised. It was one of the key things going on this weekend and it’s a great artisan market.”
Usher was just one of 6,485 people who came to peruse the pottery, woodworking, clothes and food on offer at the event. That number was about on par with last year, and well over their goal of 6,000.
Two silent auctions with items donated by vendors also raised $1,800 for WAC. “The ongoing success of the event is reflected in the increasing number of vendor applications that we receive each year,” Niedermayer said. “The jury process is increasingly difficult due to the number of entrepreneurial artists and artisans in the region.”
Wandering around the booths of around 100 vendors, she got plenty of positive feedback from shoppers kicking off their holiday season, she added. “People come up and tell me every year this is their favourite event. This is the event they go to. It’s more than an artisan market — we have singers and music and dancers, Vibe Tribe came in and did a flash mob. It’s like the kick-off to the Christmas season and everyone starts getting festive,” she said.
She was particularly impressed with the kids’ booths set up as part of Bratz Biz this year. “It’s a new generation of artisans,” she said. “The fact that it’s high-quality is great. It’s really professional.”
For Ogilvie-Turner it was the last year he plans to sell his monkeys. “I thought it was super cool and I enjoyed it,” he said. “But someone else will carry on the legacy.”