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Booming market in Basalt

Courtesy Basalt Sunday MarketA team effort produced the signs for
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BASALT – The organizers of the Basalt Sunday Market expect the 16-week event to be so successful that they tried – but failed – to secure a larger site.

Organizers wanted to close a section of Midland Avenue in the heart of downtown Basalt every Sunday from June 21 to Oct. 4.

Planners originally hoped to sign up 10 vendors. Instead the market has grown to a “gargantuan” level with more than 40, according to Kam Davies, a member of the organizing committee. There are 16 weeks of live music organized, weekly art and other activities for kids, a dance class, and cooking demonstrations by valley chefs who will use a professional Kitchenaid kitchen previously used at the Food and Wine Festival.

The products range from organic fruits and vegetables, pasta and fresh baked goods to cut flowers, pottery, clothing and crafts.

The market has struck a chord with Basaltines and surrounding midvalley residents. Scores of people attended meetings hosted by the town last winter to brainstorm on ways to inject fun and vitality into the town. A farmers’ and artisans’ market was a popular choice. The idea blossomed once some inspired residents volunteered to tackle the organization.

“With the success this market is going to have, we need a larger space,” Davies told the Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night.

The plan from the start was to place the market in Lions Parks by the Town Hall and library. But Davies and co-organizer Kathleen Cole said the uneven ground, cramped quarters and need to work around buildings makes the park less than ideal. They want to build off the success of the free lunch in Basalt last Saturday and host the market downtown. The town government and chamber of commerce closed part of Midland Avenue, the main drag, for a pig roast. Organizers hoped to attract 700 to 1,000 people. An estimated 3,000 showed up to pig out.

Cole said moving the event directly in front of downtown shops and restaurants would give them a much-needed economic boost. Extraordinary times, like a recession, require extraordinary measures, she told the council.

“You should consider how bad retailers are doing in the town,” she said. Cole had a letter of support from a large share of business owners.

But the council majority politely but firmly declined the request, at the advice of their staff. Town Manager Bill Kane said diverting traffic for just the free lunch Saturday required numerous volunteers, many of them enlisted from Town Hall. The market would need its own dedicated volunteers because the town staff would get burned out providing aid each Sunday. And although the market will operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the closure would need to be for eight or nine hours each Sunday to allow time to erect and dismantle the vendors’ booths.

“It’s a daunting proposition,” Kane told the council. “From a staff perspective we’re very intimidated by the magnitude of the proposal.”

Cole countered that the market has already proven its ability to enlist volunteers. Besides, she and Davies said, drivers should be able to follow detour signs.

Mayor Leroy Duroux said it takes substantial effort to safely and efficiently divert the traffic off the town’s main street. Traffic on Sundays will be heavy in July and August, with boaters traveling to and from Ruedi Reservoir, and anglers and hikers destined for Fryingpan Valley.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he would be willing to grant permission for the event on Midland Avenue – as long as the organizers could prove to the Basalt Police Department that they have a plan that works. The town definitely needs some events to “spice it up” in these tough times, he said.

Other council members weren’t swayed.

“We’re getting kind of a panic signal from our staff on this proposal, and I see why,” said Councilman Chris Seldin.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt said she would “love” to hold the event on Midland Avenue if it was feasible. “I’m one of those people who say ‘Let’s do what Carbondale does because it’s really fun,'” she said. But until the market organizers can convince Kane and the town staff that the proposal is workable, she wouldn’t sign off.

Lions Park remains the site for the Basalt Sunday Market. More information on the summer-long event is available at http://www.basaltsundaymarket.com.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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