Ten vendors set up booths in front of the courthouse in downtown Watkinsville yesterday to launch the 2012 season of Oconee Farmers Market.
Vendors offered fresh greens, mushrooms, strawberries, fried and boiled peanuts, plants, eggs, jams, pound cakes, shea butter, natural candles, bird houses, squirrel feeders and T-shirts.
The Red Oak Southern String Band, a Watkinsville-based group doing Americana, Bluegrass and folk, provided the music.
Among those attending were Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton, who has announced he will run for the chairmanship of the Commission, and current Commission Chairman Melvin Davis, who has not yet announced his intentions.
Bob Smith, a market regular and former Oconee County representative in the General Assembly, also was there, arriving in his Triumph classic roadster.
Traffic at the booths was slow in the early hours but built at the day and temperature progressed.
The venue was new for the market, now in its ninth season.
The market began operation in 2004 in the front yard of the Eagle Tavern across from the Courthouse and moved to the rear of the Tavern in 2009 to allow for more vendors.
The move to the front of the courthouse was to improve visibility.
Market Manager Cindy Pritchard said the change was a success.
“We saw a lot of return customers but so many new ones yesterday,” she told me in an email message today. “The greatest part was watching people slow down and look as they went by, many parking and coming over.”
Customers can park behind the Eagle Tavern, beside the courthouse or behind the courthouse, giving them easy access to the market.
The bird houses and squirrel feeders were offered by Pritchard’s daughter, Lexi, who, at 7, is the youngest vendor in the market.
Yesterday Lexi also sold cut daisies in small, glass bottles and lemonade.
The T-shirts, new this year, contain a redesigned logo for the market on the front and back. They are being given away with a $10 donation to the market, which otherwise operates solely based on the 5 percent of sales contribution that vendors make.
The market also is offering shopping bags with the market logo as a premium for a $5 donation.
The market has a Board of Directors, consisting of vendors Pritchard, Russ Page, Eric Pope and Nancy Thompson. I serve as the customer representative on the Board.
The number of vendors yesterday was one short of the number at market opening a year ago, but Pritchard said three additional vendors came to her yesterday and said they want to set up booths in the future.
Additonal vendors join the market as the season progresses.
The market opened at 8 a.m. and ran until 1 p.m. The plan is for it to follow that schedule through the end of November.