Farmers market opens Saturday

First season in market’s new home inside Franklin Park
By: 
Tim Ryan tryan@newmedia-wi.com

The Shawano Farmers Market will reach a milestone Saturday as it opens its 2019 season firmly situated for the first time within the boundaries of its new home at Franklin Park.
“We’re very excited about it,” said farmers market board member Bob Dumke. “We think it’s a much more market-friendly environment.”
The market began in Shawano in 2008 in the parking lot at City Hall before moving several years ago to the outskirts of the still-undeveloped Franklin Park along Washington Street.
This year, visitors will be able to stroll through the park where the vendors will be located and relax at picnic tables or on benches while they enjoy the music being presented in the park’s amphitheatre.
“We have the bandshell now instead of just a couple tents and chairs, so we can put on greater activities there. It’s much more customer-friendly,” Dumke said.
Opening day for this Saturday’s farmers market, which runs 8 a.m. until noon Saturdays through Oct. 5, will include Yoga in the Park, music by Arthur Boucher and the FRESH Project’s annual 5K Scrabble Fun Walk/Run.
“Everyone had such a great time at last year’s event and we were asked to bring the fun run/walk back again to start off this year’s Shawano Farmers Market.” said Barb Mendoza, FRESH Project executive director. “Everyone comes out a winner with a great walk or run through town, a free t-shirt, and fun playing a game together.”
The 5K route is all in town and includes five booths where walkers and runners can learn about the FRESH Project and collect Scrabble. Once someone completes the 5K the route, they’ll place their letters on the Scrabble board and try to spell a word. The person with the most points from their word will be the grand prize winner.
The Fun Walk/Run is a fundraiser for the FRESH Project, which is working to make ensure everyone in the community has access to good food.
This weekend’s market will also provide a fundraiser for Shawano Area Matthew 25 and its new homeless shelter.
The market provides a free booth to a nonprofit group each week.
Also new this year is the farmers market seedling program.
“It’s an exciting new initiative we have undertaken to introduce new people to the market,” Dumke said.
It basically allows a vendor one free week to see if it pays to be at the market.
“We’re offering a first-time free stall to anybody who wishes to sample the market,” Dumke said. “And to make it equitable, we’ve given one week free to each of our ongoing vendors so everybody has gotten the same value.”
The market moved to the eastern edge of Franklin Park in 2014, but the park was still undeveloped then and didn’t provide anything more behind the vendors than a large grass field.
“It didn’t provide spaces for the vendors to line up. It didn’t provide electrical needs. It didn’t provide avenues for people to flow through,” said Matt Hendricks, park and recreation director.
Electrical components were added last year as part of the first phase of the Franklin Park redevelopment, along with some additional parking stalls.
This year, vendors will be able to set up within the park, along a walkways between the new amphitheatre and the park’s water feature.
“Performers will be able to use the amphitheatre, which gets them elevated and provides electrical and lights,” Hendricks said. “There’s built-in seating, benches, a seating wall around the water feature. Hopefully people can cruise through and sit and find a place to enjoy the park, listen to music and buy additional farmers goods.”
The new arrangement doesn’t come without some logistical challenges, however.
Vendors who used to be able to unload their goods at stalls on the street now have to transport them into booths inside the park.
“It’s a little more work for I think the majority of them,” Dumke said. “But we are going to do everything in our power to help them accomplish that. We have actually gone out and purchased some transport carts to help them move their merchandise and we’re going to try to have some hands-on people there to help as well until we work out all the wrinkles.”