Saturday Roundup: Farmers Market Opens Small But Determined; No Surprises at Antique Alley; No Bribe

Saturday was a big day around Dade County and a rolling photo opp for The Dade Planet, which careened from one end of its orbit to another to document the frenzied festivities on a beautiful May day at the center of the universe.

First of all, the Trenton Farmer kicked off its 2016 season with more of a squeak than a roar. Produce is not thick on the ground this early in the year, and only a handful of vendors showed up to hawk strawberries, spinach, pork sausage and sundry breads and confections, including something called a "banana split cake" that looked like it might cause cardiac arrest and carry a five-year jail term. (Need we specify that The Planet bought one?)

From left, market manager John Shober,Shannon Van Dusen

and Diane Barnard of Bake, Frost. Repeat; and vendors Jamie

Christopher and Carol Boman,

Market manager John Shober admitted it was a disappointing start though not unexpected after the market's lackluster finish last year. "It’s been going steadily downhill and we were kind of at a loss to know why," he said.

He suspects part of the problem has been a lack of promotion. "I sense now that the local newspaper would prefer that we buy advertising, which we don’t have the budget for," he said. "So they don’t promote us very much."

And another problem is probably just that good old Dade stay-at-homeyness that has left many an event organizer before Shober alone and jilted behind a little outdoor table waiting for somebody to show up. "The really professional growers we’ve had, it’s not worth their time because there’s not enough people who come here," said Shober. "It’s a catch-22 because there are people who come here and see three vendors and say, well, there’s nothing here."

But Shober says a farmers market is a vital commodity for a town to have and he and the other market organizers are not fixin' to give up any time soon. "We are committed to the community to do this," he said. "We’re brainstorming how to bring the people back, because we had a couple of good years.”

The Trenton Farmers Market opened with a serious bang in 2010 under the joint auspices of the Trenton Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Dade Chamber of Commerce. Since then, the DDA went inactive and the market separated from the C of C, becoming an independent entity. But it chugged along pretty healthily and Its 2013 spring debut was a gala affair complete with live music from The Dade County Boys.

One revitalization effort Shober and his associates are making is to recruit more vendors. This year, the market is offering a zero vending fee for the first day and a $5 maximum fee for subsequent Saturdays.

In previous years, vendors had to be local growers or craftspeople. Now the market has relaxed its requirements and is allowing resellers and middlemen. ”We need more vendors," said Shober. “You don’t have to be a pro." He's recruiting gardeners with surplus produce, craftspeople, bakers... "We’re wide open," he said. "We’ll take anyone.”

Prospective vendors wishing more information may call Keith Bien at (423) 987-1389 or John Shober at (423) 987-0039. Or just show up. Market hours are Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon on the Trenton

Another effort Shober and crew will examine to bring back the crowds is better signage around town.

But based on observations Saturday, what the The Planet can recommend to boost attendance is: Avon bottles. These and other doodads, tchotchkes and kickshaws figured prominently in this year's Antique Alley, which drew enough yard salers to make driving hazardous on HIghway 11 from Thursday to Sunday.

These vintage whiskey bottles were at the high end of the useful-containers-for-putting-things-in category. The one on the front left had a picture of Chopin on the left, and the purveyor assured The Planet they were cheap at his asking price of $58 per three or $30 for one. The Planet is sure he was right: This is America. Would anyone say something untrue just to sell a product?

In any case, similar stalls lined Highway 11 from one end of the county to the other, and they were not neglected by shoppers. Here is a shot from 11 North, where used appliances, frayed board games and racks of old clothing choked the grass.

But despite the increased traffic and, no doubt, the fierce competition for merchandise, the Dade County Sheriff's Department and Emergency Services Divisions both said it had been a quiet weekend from their perspective, with no accidents or injuries reported.

The primary election next Tuesday, May 24, will settle all the contested local races in Dade County, so Saturday's crowds were a good opportunity for campaigners. Spotted on the square were, among others, Georgia Sen.Jeff Mullis and Dade Executive candidate Cliff Auman. The Planet failing to get the pols crosshaired in the camera while they were stumping in the valley, what was there to do but follow them up Sand Mountain to the Davis Fire Department Barbecue to catch them at the trough?

Alas, The Planet was not in time to catch the stumpers feeding though Mike Casey (left) and the other Davis firefighters dishing up Q reported that incumbent Exec Ted Rumley, Sen. Mullis, Commissioner Robert Goff and a variety of other local pols had

all partaken of pig in benefit for the volunteer fire department. The Planet reminds readers that all Dade's district fire departments sponsor benefit feeds like this throughout the year and that attending is a very palatable way to support your local volunteers.

Below, firefighter Reese Morrison displays a $20 bill that may or may not have been used by one of the local stumpers to pay for his chow. If so, there is no reason to believe the payer had obtained it in a manner inconsistent with the bill's inscription.

If you missed all the fun and excitement this Saturday, no worries: This coming Saturday, May 21, is not only Dade's third annual Festival of Life, which begins on the square at 10 a.m. and is to be accompanied by a Dade Library-sponsored health fair, the day will culminate in a second and final debate of candidates for contested Dade offices at 6 p.m. at the Highway 11 North studio of local radio/TV station KWN.

The Planet will see you there!

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