Market provides theme as attraction
Donna Marie Williams
Sunday, July 7, 2019
WINTERVILLE — Farmers markets specialize in bringing fresh-from-the-fields produce directly to consumers. In Winterville, the farm-to-table dynamic was made even clearer at a recent Market on the Square.
The town combined its biweekly market with a celebration of all things agricultural by adopting the theme, “Farm Extravaganza.”
“We just wanted to highlight local farms and agriculture. We’re highlighting tractors, farm equipment, farm vendors, produce and just bringing it all together,” said Josh Walston, an administrative intern for the town of Winterville.
The themed event was part of an ongoing effort by Winterville officials to drum up interest in the market, which was launched in 2017 and held each Thursday during the summer months as a way to increase foot traffic downtown Winterville and support local farmers and artisans.
The market has struggled to with participation, both of vendors and shoppers. To combat this, it added food trucks and music last year. Food trucks and musical entertainment continued into this year’s market, with Anita’s Taquria y mas and music by Joe Shangara of Greenville.
But community participation still faltered.
At the June 10 Winterville Town Council meeting, the board decided to reduce the frequency of the markets from every Thursday to every other Thursday, in a means to create a more specialized venue. And organizers also created a theme around each market as a way to attract people to the event.
“Winterville is a quickly growing town, but in many ways it’s still a small town,” Winterville’s economic developer Stephen Penn said. “I think the shift we’re starting is a good move. There is a pretty good amount of people here and a good amount of vendors. So far, it’s looking really promising,”
Attendees at the recent Farm Extravaganza market had the opportunity to pet and feed goats provided by the Future Farmers of America and students in animal sciences at Farmville Central High School, who brought the animals for educational purposes.
“Any good publicity and accurate information we can get out about agriculture (is) important for people to have an appreciation of where their food is from,” said Jonathan Riggs, an ag teacher at Farmville Central. “These days (goats) are not something people see very often. The vast majority of my students have never interacted with (animals other than) cats, dogs and maybe birds, which is surprising because agriculture is such a large part of the state.”
At a farm equipment Touch-a-Truck event, attendees had the opportunity to sit behind the wheels of machines that help to plant and harvest many of the items for sale in nearby booths.
The farm theme attracted Katherine Jackson of Greenville, who brought along her 5-year-old son, Harper. This was their first time at the market.
“We saw there was going to animals and farm equipment. It’s great. I didn’t really know about (Market on the Square),” Jackson said.
Jessica Morgan of Greenville was another first-time attendee.
“We saw it on Facebook for the farm animal highlight,” Morgan said. “It’s kind of small but at the same time it’s got that small-town feel. I like the free bouncy castle.”
The market featured 20 vendors, many of whom have been with the market since its inception, like Sophie’s Crafts of Farmville.
“I think it’s the best one yet. I’m glad to see a lot more kids out here,” said Sophia Lyles, the owner of Sophie’s Crafts.
Willard and Lottie Joyner, the owners of Willard’s Wood, felt the changes had a positive effect on the market.
“It helps when they have a theme and have all the attractions for kids,” Lottie Joyner said. “That gets parents out. It looks like there are more people here than there has been.”
The couple would like to see the market returned to its weekly status “but I understand the town’s (decision),” Willard said.
Vendors said they were thankful to see the increased community participation.
“Tonight is really nice. I think they have a lot more people here,” said Judy Sutton, the owner of HomePlace Strawberries & More of Farmville. “We came a few times and not a lot of people came.”
Patty Roseman, the owner of Patty’s Cakes of Gardnerville, said the changes to the market seem to be helping.
“Theme-based is great because it brings the people in,” Roseman said. “The town still needs to publicize more.”
The next market is on Wednesday with the theme Christmas in July. Christmas music may be played, while attendees shop for Christmas-related gifts and other items.
“It’s never too early to start shopping for Christmas,” Walston said.
The July 25 Market on the Square is Fire Palooza Day, which will occur in conjunction with the Winterville Fire Department’s open house.
The market may return in the fall with other specialty themes. A Christmas-themed Market on the Square is scheduled for Nov. 23.
Market on the Square is open from 4-8 p.m. The market is located behind the Winterville Public Library near the town clock, off of Main Street.