Who gets space at farmer’s market?
Aspen can only hope its newly expanded farmer’s market is as lively as the debate over who should have a booth there.
As it stands now, shirts made in Indonesia are out, cooking demonstrations are in, a baker and a wine maker may be blackballed by the farmers, and a number of local craftspeople will be selling their wares at the Aspen Saturday Market.
Amid squabbling and flaring tempers, the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission sorted through a list of applicants for new booth spaces at the expanded market on Wednesday. The commission nixed one vendor, did its best to placate others and then headed to the park outside City Hall to figure out how it would fit booths, 100 chairs for cooking-show spectators and Aspen Animal Shelter dogs and cats on the relatively small expanse of grass.
The weekly market will expand into Conner Memorial Park and a stretch of the alleyway next to City Hall this year, allowing for a variety of locals’ booths that the CCLC hopes will enliven the event.
The commission estimates it has space for roughly nine 10-by-10-foot booth spaces in the park and along the alley. Twelve vendors received the nod to participate in the market this summer; the fate of three other applicants is undecided.
Most of the vendors are willing to share a booth space, either operating two or three to a booth or on alternating weeks.
“It sounds like we can accommodate everybody,” said CCLC member Andrew Kole.
It wasn’t easy, though.
When commission members hinted that they’d like to consult with Seth Sachson, who operates the animal shelter and wants space in the park, before approving plans for the cooking demonstrations, they received an earful.
“Here we have some of the biggest chefs in the world and we’re going to defer for dogs? I will not accept that,” said businessman Barry Gordon, slamming his hand down on the table.
“You’re not helping your case,” CCLC chairman Bill Dinsmoor warned Gordon, who later apologized for his outburst.
Ultimately, the commission gave a thumbs up to Gordon’s plan for the demonstrations, featuring a rotation of local chefs throughout the summer months. The demonstrations will begin at 10 a.m. and last an hour, he said.
The chefs will use produce from farmer’s market vendors to create cold dishes. Spectators will receive samples, prepared in advance at the restaurant, and recipes to take home.
“This event already has a buzz going,” said Gordon, who asked the CCLC for help in arranging a few of the details. He is in need of an audio system for the chefs, $4,000 to fund GrassRoots TV’s taping of the demonstrations for rebroadcast on the local cable channel, and volunteer help to haul the chairs from St. Mary’s Church and return them afterward.
The lineup of participating chefs will come from 11 restaurants, including Campo di Fiore, the Century Room at the Hotel Jerome, The Little Nell, Restaurant Mogador, Jimmy’s, Pinons, L’Hostaria, Renaissance, Olives at the St. Regis, the Motherlode and Cache Cache.
After concurring that both the demonstrations and the animal shelter can be accommodated, the CCLC gave its blessing to a variety of vendors, including jewelry makers and hat makers, one massage therapist, a painter who sells greeting cards featuring her wildflower illustrations, a maker of chocolates and two potters.
Gail Price, owner of Aspen Potters, pleaded with the council to favor her local business over Carbondale potter Alleghany Meadows, but CCLC members refused to exclude Meadows, who was not present. They did offer Price the first pick of booths.
“I’m depending on the integrity of the committee to protect local businesses,” said Price, who sells both her own work and that of potters from around the state. “To bring business from out of town to take away from business that’s in town – that’s a travesty.”
“I would really like to ask you both to be there, because I think it will make this a better event,” Kole responded.
The commission drew the line, though, at allowing Basalt resident Erika Corbin’s line of batik shirts, made in Indonesia, into the market.
Corbin said she had input into their design, but the commission had advertised for vendors of products that are made or grown in Colorado.
After a heated debate, the commission voted 3-2 to reject Corbin’s application to sell the shirts at the market.
The fate of three prospective vendors remains undecided. One clothing and jewelry maker has yet to appear before the commission, and the farmers’ group has the power to veto a wine maker and baker because they will compete with existing vendors in the farmers’ association.
Woody Creek resident Kevin Doyle is interested in selling wines from his Colorado Rocky Mountain Winery in Cedar Edge, but existing vendors Katie and Patrick Leto of Aspen Valley Winery have expressed concern.
The Thunderbowl Market Cafe at Aspen Highlands has applied to sell organic breads, but Louis Swiss Pastry already sells baked goods at the market.
The market will begin June 15 with the growers who traditionally occupy the block of Hopkins Avenue next to City Hall. The additional booths will come a week later, on June 22. The event runs through October.
The cooking demonstrations are scheduled to begin June 22 with Campo di Fiore and wrap up Sept. 7 with the Motherlode.
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