Saturday will mark the start of something new in Denison with the first “Market in the Park,” which Grant Fineran hopes will replace the Denison Farmers Market as soon as next year.
In the last five years, the number of visitors to the farmers market has steadily declined, according to Fineran.
“Overall foot traffic has gone down dramatically each year,” he said.
Fineran took over the farmers market from Dale Segebart two years ago.
“Last year, the least we had come through was about 45 to 50 people,” he said. “The highs were maybe around 90 to 100.”
Five years ago, about 100 to 150 people visited the farmers market every week, he said.
Fineran got together with Chamber & Development Council (CDC) of Crawford County Executive Director Evan Blakley and came up with the idea for Market in the Park.
Meriah Blakley, Evan’s wife, signed on to create the graphic designs.
“Ever since I took over, I’ve been wanting to create something that was more like the downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market,” Fineran said.
He envisions a marketplace that will include farm produce, baked goods such as breads, pies, chocolates and cookies, as well as textiles, arts and crafts.
He already has about 15 vendors, covering most of those bases, signed up.
Market in the Park will take place on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, from 9 a.m. to noon, through October 12.
Dyersville started a similar market last year with 12 vendors, he said.
“With a lot of word of mouth and a lot of advertising, they have grown to 68 this year,” Fineran said.
The Dyersville market takes place just once a month, he noted.
Vendors for Market in the Park do not have to be from the local area.
“We’re not limiting ourselves to Denison,” he said. “All these different communities have small businesses that are trying to get their names out there.”
He would eventually like to have 40 to 50 vendors at the market.
“We want to create a farmers market that isn’t just a couple of small businesses selling produce,” Fineran said.
Washington Park is the right place for the new market for several reasons, he said.
The large open areas will provide room for the market to grow and the park’s features will make the market a destination for families.
“We wanted to make something more family-oriented and more-community oriented,” he said. “What better place than the park?”
Kids can play on the park’s facilities while their parents shop.
Fineran said they may add a bouncy house, a bag-toss tournament and live music.
“We’re looking for local talent who play instruments and sing,” he said.
Local nonprofits have expressed interest in doing fundraising during the market.
Washington Park will make a better place for a market than the current location, he said.
“People can come out and they can enjoy the shade rather than going on the hot blacktop at 3:30 in the afternoon late in July,” Fineran said. “That’s just not comfortable for anyone.”
Another problem with the current farmers market is the 3 to 6 p.m. time period it is open.
Those hours were geared to workers from Smithfield and Tyson getting off work at 3 or 3:30 p.m., he said.
He attributes the closing of the Tyson plant to reduced numbers at the farmers market.
“Our vision is to have one solid community market where people can come down on a Saturday morning, when more than likely they are not working,” Fineran said.
Vendors will not be charged a fee to participate.
“At our old market, we charged a vendor fee,” he said. “This year, we did away with the vendor fee completely.”
Market in the Park will instead look for sponsorships from the community.
Sponsorships of $100, $250, $500 and $1,000 are being sought.
Sponsors will receive advertising benefits and recognition on the market’s Facebook page.
No one on the Market in the Park committee in charge of the project will take any of the money, Fineran said.
Sponsorship funds will go toward signage and other needs of maintaining the market.
Some of the funds will be given to the city for taking care of Washington Park.
“We’ll invest money in the park and fix some things and plant new grass or new trees,” he said. “We want to donate back to the community that helped us get this started.”
Vendors that have signed up so far will be selling baked goods, sweets, farm produce, cheese, honey, syrups, chocolates, kids’ clothing, quilting items, artwork and wood briquettes for smoking meat.
There will be no cutoff for vendors to sign up.
The Thursday Denison Farmers Market will continue this year.
For next year, Fineran hopes to start Market in the Park at the beginning of June – and it may take place every weekend.
“Hopefully it’s a good thing this year because we want to continue it down the road,” he said.
Individuals interested in signing on as a vendor or sponsor may contact Fineran and others on the market committee through the Market in the Park – Denison, Iowa Facebook page or by email at email@example.com
Fineran may be contacted at 712-269-6796.