Farmers Market looking to grow
Aspen’s popular summertime farmer’s market is getting set for its third consecutive season, and this time the farmers are hoping to add a little extra excitement to the affair.
Market representative Jack D’Orio presented Aspen City Council members with a proposal to add on-site cooking of takeout-style foods, “sideshows” to entertain the crowds, and a variety of musical acts to the standard array of regional meats, produce and other agricultural products.
But council members seemed disinclined to approve anything that would put the market in direct competition with local businesses.
D’Orio, who is one of the vendors and an organizer of the market, made his pitch at Monday’s brown-bag-lunch meeting.
He said there will once again be about 15 vendors selling their goods along the 500 block of East Hopkins Avenue this summer. The city shuts the street down to automobile traffic every Saturday from late June through early October to accommodate the market.
At a meeting of the vendors a few weeks ago, D’Orio said, the idea came up for cooking “on-site” meals for the customers. The suggestions, he said, were along the lines of “sheep kabobs” from the Nieslanik sheep ranch, or bratwurst sandwiches from Homestead Meats, or such things as quesadillas (using locally produced cheeses) and fresh salads with Western Slope produce.
D’Orio also suggested the addition of “sideshows” such as puppet shows, face painting, balloons and possibly even flower shows, to further entertain the crowds.
And finally, D’Orio said the market organizers are hoping to bring back the Steel Drum Band that performed last summer, as well as Aspen Music Festival students and other local musical talent to perform for the market every weekend of the summer and early fall.
Although the council had given City Planning Director Julie Ann Woods authority to approve additional vendors, Woods told the council she and her staff decided these changes were a little more than that authority was supposed to cover.
The focus of the discussion was the idea of offering prepared food for sale, rather than the bite-sized samples that have been offered in the past.
Woods and Environmental Health Officer Jannette Whitcomb said their departments could handle the additional work represented in the addition of food preparation. Whitcomb said she was worried about the possible outbreak of illness from such things as E. coli bacteria, but predicted that such problems were not that likely to occur.
But council members all said that, in addition to health issues, their main concern is the competition that such offerings would pose for local restaurants, some of which count on the Farmer’s Market trade on Saturdays through the summer.
Another issue cropped up when local shopkeeper Shae Singer, of Sashae Floral Arts and Gifts, said the flower vendors at the market cut into her business and others’ last summer, to the point where one local flower shop simply started closing its doors on Saturday. Singer has suggested that local businesses be allowed to open up booths at the market, and told the council on Monday night that she will be working toward that end for future markets.
Lastly, council members said they were worried about the reaction of neighbors if music is performed every weekend.
City staffers will continue to work on the issues raised Monday, and Mayor Rachel Richards predicted that the proposed changes to the farmer’s market, if pursued, would probably entail public hearings before any decisions are made.
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