Walla Walla doubles up on farmers markets

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WALLA WALLA — In spite of each being low on produce and high in winds, two farmers markets held their season openers on Saturday.

The differences, however, greatly outnumbered the similarities between the Walla Walla Fairgrounds Farmers Market and the Downtown Farmers Market that operates out of Crawford Park at Fourth and Main.

For several years the Walla Walla Valley Farmers Market had operated out of Crawford Park. But after the organization lost its lease to the city-owned park, board members moved their operation this year to the Fairgrounds.

Twelve vendors were set up Saturday just east of the Pavilion, and Treasurer Jayne Foster said it was a good start considering the new location.

“We have had a good day, and I am really pleased with the turnout we have had,” Foster said.

Across town at Crawford Park, approximately 65 vendors set up at what has been the traditional location for the community’s farmers. This market is now operated by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.

Along with a new operator, the downtown market will see other changes this year, including wider aisles, a designated dining area and new booth locations for many returning vendors.

“It was hard getting started this morning because some vendors wanted to go back to their older spots,” Downtown Farmers Market Manager Cheryl Thyken said.

The changes were noted by out-of-towner Caroline Brady, who said she likes to visit farmers markets whenever she travels.

“It seems like there were more vendors and more food before. For us it is just a sense of community and we can be part of the town even though we are not from here,” Brady said.

Vendor Amity Priore of Gypsy Sally’s Produce Palace said she also noticed the changes but was more concerned with business.

“It looks good. There is a lot more space, though I haven’t had a chance to look at the rest of the market. It has been very busy,” Priore said.

Both markets were also under new management this year.

Thyken, a previous employee of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, was hired to operate the market, while Foster stepped in for previous the manager, Beth-Aimee McGuire, whose position was cut.

“We had to eliminate that job because we didn’t have the finances. We basically have had to start all over,” Foster said.

Both markets will operate through October and both will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Downtown Farmers Market will be open Saturdays and Sundays.

The Walla Walla Fairgrounds Farmers Market will be open Saturdays, excluding Balloon Stampede and Fair weekend.

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