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Farmer Paul Barnett has gotten a jump on the growing season in his warehouse.
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Chef Gabe Chatterton of the Edible Art Bakery at Jacoby Arts Center debuted baked goods and hand-churned butter on opening day.
ALTON — The 2016 season of the Alton Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market is under way through Oct. 15, in session from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday mornings and from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Wednesday evenings in the parking lot at the corner of Landmarks Blvd. and Henry Street.
A new Night Market is being added from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at Elijah P’s at 401 Piasa St.
Shoppers will find a wide selection of locally grown seasonal fruit and vegetables, including heirloom varieties and organically grown crops. Produce will be available, along with grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, farm fresh eggs, local honey, hot or iced coffee, fresh bread and other baked goods. In addition, fresh-cut flowers, potted plants and a large assortment of hand-crafted artwork such as pottery, stained glass, soap, candles and woodworking items will be sold.
Alton Main Street organizes the markets, which have been in operation for 24 years, as part of the organization’s efforts to revitalize the Downtown Alton historic district. The events feature products that are handmade or homegrown within a 50-mile radius. New vendors are welcome; registration fees are $12 for Saturdays and $5 for either Wednesday option. Discounted seasonal rates also are available.
Live entertainment and special activities have been scheduled every Saturday morning throughout the season. On June 11, AMS will team up with the Alton Park & Recreation Department to hold a Tailgate Sale in the adjacent parking lot. The sale starts at 7 a.m., and shoppers can find great bargains until noon. To reserve a $10 parking spot to sell unwanted goods, advanced registration is required by calling (618) 463-3580. On June 18, live music will be performed by When Universes Collide, and attendees will enjoy an artist demo by Jim Linksvayer, who will be working on the pottery wheel. Children can also enjoy getting behind the wheel of a small automobile in the Power Wheels Derby Car Racetrack. June 25 will feature multi-instrumentalist Nancy Lippincott, as well as the popular Recipe Day, an opportunity to collect favorite family recipes while shoppers visit with vendors.
Alton Main Street aims to improve access to healthy foods thanks to the Illinois EBT Wireless Project grant funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps or LINK cards) will be accepted by many vendors. The goal is to boost the sale of Illinois-grown food and provide access to fresh produce to low-income residents by enabling farmers markets to accept federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Starting on July 2, Senior Services Plus will distribute Senior Nutrition Coupons at the Saturday Market, which are vouchers for $25 worth of free produce to seniors 60 and older who fit income guidelines. For information on that program, contact SSP at (618) 465-3298.
A new project called the Night Market will launch on June 8 and will take place every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the warehouse behind Elijah P’s.
“We have gotten feedback from artists who work 9-5 jobs that they would like a mid-week market to sell their wares, so we’ve added a late night option to support more creative entrepreneurs in our area,” said Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street. “Last fall we worked with Russ Smith to present the Chili Cook-Off in his warehouse and everyone fell in love with the ambiance in the space, so we are excited to get more activity going there. Vendors will enjoy the built-in foot traffic from the popular bar and restaurant, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The same stipulations apply for vendors — anything homegrown or handmade is welcome to be sold, and there are many on-site amenities that will be enjoyed by vendors and shoppers alike, including restrooms, electricity for booths, live bands from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and food and drinks. The warehouse is climate-controlled, meaning that there is no risk for rain-outs and vendors don’t need to set up tents.
“The Night Market concept will be a great fit for the space,” owner Russ Smith said. “We will be creating an atmosphere that is popular with St. Louis markets by allowing customers to grab dinner and a beverage and listen to live music while shopping for artisan-made products. There will also be cross-promotional opportunities for our chef Aaron Whalen to offer specials featuring produce and products from the market.”
“Thankfully, choosing to shop local is becoming more then a fad; it’s developing into a way of life for many people who realize the economic impact of supporting local entrepreneurs,” McGibany said. “Spending a portion of your existing food budget and purchasing gifts from market vendors truly boosts our local economy because the profit recirculates here instead of being sent out of the area to corporations and their shareholders. Not to mention fruits and vegetables are at their freshest and most nutritious when they have not been shipped across the country, and the market is a lot more fun than a trip to the grocery store.”
Anyone who would like to sell homegrown or handmade items at these events is encouraged to visit the Events page of www.DowntownAlton.com to download a registration form. Pre-registration is not required; vendors simply show up one hour prior to start time to be directed to their booth space. Receive reminders on what produce is in season, plus upcoming entertainment and activities at facebook.com/AltonFarmersMarket or on the Twitter account @AltonMarket.