Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sentinel column 6-2-12

In 2000, I was chairing the Chamber’s downtown committee and looking for a project. A farmers market sounded like a good idea to bring a few more people to the downtown area so we held an organizational meeting at the Chamber office, which at the time was in the streetcar depot at King Jack Park. The farmers looked east in the park rather than north to downtown. Unlike me, they knew that protection from sun and rain was essential and the sheds put up for the Mining Days craft show were just the ticket. We had about 4 farmers at that first meeting. Of those, Frederickson Farms is still with us. Carl Carnahan, a long time bee keeper, was also there and offered valuable advice. Carl sold at the market for several years before becoming ill, at which point his partner Jann Amos and wife Resa took over honey sales at the market. So 13 years later we still have two of those original vendors, plus some 30 more. And 13 years later, the market has finally come to the very center of downtown at Broadway and Main Street, symbolically anyway. That’s where the market mural is taking shape.

That location may seem suspiciously familiar to those who know me. The mural is on the north side of the building where I live with my family and where my husband Phil has his law office. And you may think I pulled strings to secure the mural for my building, but not so! We identified three downtown locations for the lead artist and he made the selection. He chose the Middlewest Building for its visibility, large “canvas” and its pristine painting surface. And it’s that later quality that gives me true deniability. Many years ago I spent three very hot, very hard weeks removing every bit of paint off that wall. It was downright painful for me to watch the artists prime over my pretty clean brick with white paint last week.

But that evening I watched as the lines of the mural were projected against the wall and the artists moved in to transfer the drawing onto the wall. And the magic began. The artists were all dressed in black, and as they worked, they seemed to be part of the mural itself, moving among the farmers and tables of the market.

Over the weekend about 150 members of the community dropped by to paint a section of the mural and the white primer began to take on brilliant colors. This week the artists, led by lead artist and native Webb Citian Kyle McKenzie, have begun the refining process. By this time next week, the mural will be essentially completed. The official “unveiling” will take place in early July, but of course, it is actually on view right now as we certainly don’t have a tarp big enough to cover it.

Meanwhile, there's a lot happening at the actual market this weekend. On Friday, we have Patrick Byers and Shon Bishop with University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension respectively, advising our customers and farmers on growing issues. If you have a plant, tree or shrub with a problem, they can probably point you in the right direction. Just bring the bug or a sample of a damaged plant in a clear plastic (& sealed) bag for them to examine. Or if you just want some good tips on growing, they can help you with that, too. On Friday, Granny Shaffers at the Market serves home-style chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, bread, drink and dessert for $6. They’ll also have chef salads. The Plainsfolk will play Irish music.

We begin our nutrition education on Saturday when our market intern Lindsay Rollins demonstrates grilled zucchini rollups. Satisfying and only 20 calories, the roll ups make a tasty appetizer or side. Lindsay will also have coupons for Ball Jar products and samples of canning mixes and there’ll be a place to sign up for more coupons direct from Ball Jar as well as for a drawing. Lindsay is a senior at MSSU working towards her honors diploma by volunteering at the market this summer.

On Saturday, Big Brothers, Big Sisters serves breakfast till 11. Their volunteers spend individual time with their “Littles”, giving them attention on a regular basis, usually two to four times a month. There’s also a lunch buddy program when volunteers regularly eat lunch with their “Littles” at school. Both programs give children a consistent connection with a caring mature mentor that fills a gap in their lives and leads them towards a healthy, productive future. Like every Cooking for a Cause at the Saturday market, you get a tasty breakfast, support an important community project and – bonus! - enjoy some live music, which this week is provided by the Granny Chicks. Bring your dancing shoes, they do some lively polkas.

Planning the week ahead, don’t forget the Tuesday market where you can get most the selection but half the traffic and crowds. And next Saturday is Second Saturday and that means the Art Market and free streetcar rides.

See you at the market!