Community members and tourists browsed through a handful of local craft and fresh produce vendors on Thursday, while listening to the acoustic music during the first Farmers Market.
It's exactly what Maria Payne envisioned this year's Mitchell Farmers Market to look like. Payne is the James Valley Community Center (JVCC) Activities Coordinator and manages the farmers market, and she's been focusing her efforts to highlight more local artists and agriculture producers at the weekly event at the Corn Palace Plaza.
"It's been fun seeing the farmers market evolve over the years, and we want to spotlight more local artists and music entertainment," Payne said. "By having more artists and craftspeople, I think it will add a unique aspect to the farmers market. There are many amazing local artists and music guests, and we want to show them off."
Entering its second year at the Corn Palace Plaza, Payne is eager to continue growing the farmers market next to Mitchell's biggest tourist attraction, which takes place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 26 (excluding July 4, Aug. 1 and Aug. 22). The farmers market is also a supplementary fundraiser for the JVCC, which provides volunteers for the events.
The new-look market has undergone several changes over the years, as it switched locations from the city-owned Fifth Avenue and Main Street parking lot to its existing location at the Corn Palace Plaza in 2018. Payne said the move has boosted vendor participation and attendance, and she anticipates the farmers market to steadily grow with this year's unique schedule of events. Those include art demos, musical entertainment and a reading night with local children's author Jean Patrick.
"We have some fun events in store, and being next to a beautiful building like the Corn Palace helps tourists get a chance to enjoy their experience in Mitchell," Payne said.
Mark and Tanya Kitto were one of the art vendors who had a booth set up Thursday at the farmers market, and the couple welcomed a handful of shoppers who purchased some of their handmade wooden signs. It's the Kittos' first year with a booth at the farmers market, and Mark said the addition of arts and crafts gives attendees more variety.
"I think having arts and crafts vendors will draw more people in, because there aren't many people that offer homemade crafts anymore," Mark said.
Because of the market, the Kittos said, they now have an outlet to display and sell the unique wood signs they've spent the past four years creating. From glow in the dark wooden wall signs to handmade mini bean bag sets, the two combine their artistic talents and take part in craft shows around the area.
"This is a fun way for us to share our wall art and other art pieces we make," Tanya said.
On the food side of things, Payne said a fan favorite baker will have a vending booth set up throughout the summer.
During Thursday's farmers market, Laura Stahl's homemade bread loaves drew lines of customers waiting to get their hands on her bread and baked goods. Stahl is the owner of Evangelist Bread Bakery, and said she enjoys seeing how the community comes together for Thursday evening events.
In addition, Payne is collaborating with Main Street business owners such as the Back 40, Cornerstone Too and Jesse's Candy Clouds. Payne will encourage those Main Street businesses to pass out coupons during the events throughout this year's farmers market, which she said is designed to spur more local business.
"I really want to promote the local businesses, because they have been very supportive of the farmers market. I think it will also help engage more community members to explore the unique businesses on Main Street," Payne said.
To become a vendor, there is a $10 fee for one night, while a full-season fee costs $126. Payne likes where things are headed with the resurgence of the market.
"I just want to keep this going strong," Payne said. "It's such a fun way to connect with local community members and unique tourists. It brings everyone together.