Swinging through the last Garrison Night Market of the Year

Still of the sign for the Garrison Night Market held every Thursday throughout the summer next to the Fredericton Public Library. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

With each step through Carleton Street in the heart of downtown Fredericton, the crowd got larger and the jumpy swing music got louder. A band played on stage while couples danced dizzyingly in front, twirling each other with smiles on their faces while the crowd stood around them. Beside the stage, an older man held a toddler’s hand while she spun fast in a circle.  

This was the scene at the last Garrison Night Market of the year held on Sept. 10.  

Garrison Night Market has been a hub for vendors, musicians, and the Fredericton community since its start in 2018. Local businesses and bands come to the market to share their services with the public.  

“Overall, [the market] is by far the best thing out of the whole summer,” said attendee Katya Naiman.  

Naiman visits the market every Thursday. As a former dance instructor, her favourite part of the market is the music and dancing.  

“[Dancing is] energizing, a lot of fun,” said Naiman. “People enjoy watching. I enjoy seeing them smiling and I enjoy watching people dance.”  

On this particular night, the soundtrack to the dancers’ joy was played by the Alex Bailey Swing Band. Consisting of nine musicians, the swing band has been performing at the Garrison Night Market since it opened five years ago.  

“It’s a real festive place. It’s a nice happening spot on a Thursday night,” said University of New Brunswick alum Alex Bailey, the organizer of the band. “Everybody’s out there having a good time, supporting local crafts people, good food vendors and enjoying the arts at the same time.” 

The swing band has been playing together for about 10 years, although their history extends back to Fredericton High School, where most of the band members graduated from the music program. Bailey, however, was never in the music program at school; instead, he accredits his musical passion to his family.  

With musical parents, a sister who plays piano, a brother who plays percussion and another brother who plays strings, Bailey has been surrounded by music his entire life. Guitar was his instrument of choice, but after inheriting his late grandfather’s mandolin, Bailey was inspired to learn new styles of music and eventually found swing. 

“It’s a kind of music that lends itself to you wanting to dance and move and have a good time. It’s very upbeat,” said Bailey. “There’s a rich history there and that’s what inspired us to play it. It’s super fun to play.”  

Not only does Bailey have a good time playing swing, he also loves seeing people dance to his music. Aside from the general public, dancers from the group Fredericton Swing Dance often populate the dance circle in front of the band’s stage.  

“They’re smiling and moving and it’s nice when people haven’t seen us perform before,” said Bailey. “They see folks dancing and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, these people practice? They’re dancing like there’s something going on here, it’s not spontaneous, right?’” 

One of Bailey’s favourite parts of performing is seeing seasoned dancers and amateurs come together at the Night Market.

“Helping to provide good entertainment just leads to a really fun time for everybody. We enjoy it,” said Bailey. 

Emily Whitty, another attendee, said she saw many people from her school, families and people she recognizes, everyone with something to do at the market.

“It’s just such good energy […] celebrating the end of summer.”