You can’t get much more local than the Market at the Village, which plans to open in May for its 12th season.
The registered not-for-profit twice-weekly gatherings, Saturday mornings featuring fresh Niagara produce and Wednesday’s supper market, have become lively and popular meeting places for local families, and this coming season will be no exception, hopes co-ordinator Sharon Brinsmead-Taylor.
However, she’s run into a problem that has to be solved in the coming weeks, with the time to put up the main tent not far away.
Last year, she said, the original tent they had depended on was replaced — it had lasted 10 years — and with 2,500 to 3,000 people at most of the supper markets, she decided on a significantly larger one that allows for more events under cover. At 40 feet by 80 feet, it is also taller, and because of the extra height, has sustained wind damage, including bending the bracing.
Before it can be erected this season, it needs repairing, with extra bracing added, she said. At an estimate of more than $13,000, “this was a major blow to our budget.”
When the farmers market opened in 2007, it was conceived by developer John Hawley as a community event for those who lived in Garrison Village and The Village — a gathering place for residents who could walk there and buy local produce. It’s grown to attract about 500 people most Saturdays, and has become an event for the wider community, with prepared foods, breakfast, handmade soaps and bath products, fresh bread and baked goods, jams, jellies, pickles and preserves, and some artisans, all local to the region, as well as live music.
The SupperMarket, which opened in 2014 with a few food vendors, has grown to more than 20 food trucks and local vendors offering a wide variety of choices, with local beer and wine available. It attracts some visitors, but it’s still mostly locals who share the picnic tables and consider it a meeting place for friends and neighbours, she said.
“It’s all directed at locals, to serve them here so they don’t have to go elsewhere. It’s walkable for a lot of people and for everyone to enjoy. Many residents come out on a weekly basis, including families who gravitate to the children’s activity area, where the kids can play safely while the parents relax and enjoy some free time and socialize with other families.”
With free admission and parking, the kids’ zone and live entertainment, it operates at a break-even point most seasons — any money made from the supper market, from vendors and drink tokens, helps support low fees for Saturday’s vendors, said Brinsmead-Taylor.
“We have to pay for parking attendants, security, maintaining the field and port-o-potties, and it all adds up.”
Because of extreme heat and iffy Wednesday weather, attendance was down last season and it ended in a deficit.
Brinsmead-Taylor is hoping for some corporate sponsorship, donations, or someone in the community who will be able to help out with the tent repairs, or know someone who can.
There will be a donor plaque by the tent to recognize supporters “as part of the market family,” she said.
She’s also considering a GoFundMe online request for donations, to ensure the market goes ahead as planned.
“We don’t have a heck of a lot of time to get it repaired,” she said.
She’s had questions from the community, given the news of a commercial square planned for the Village in the field where the markets now take place, about whether the weekly events will continue. It will be business as usual this season, hopefully with a stronger tent, and in the future, when construction begins for the Village Square, there are sites being considered as a permanent location for the market, she said.