Our Market Master, Stephanie, was on vacation recently which means Chamber staff fills in, so I was the lucky winner of the 3:45 a.m. start. I love running the Market, however, in the heat of produce season, it truly is an exercise in intestinal fortitude.
We start putting together the Market in the late afternoon the day before. Vendors call in to reserve a space and the rather serious puzzle of getting everyone in a stall that meets their needs will make your brain turn to mush after the first hour (it usually takes up to four hours to complete).
Well before the crack of dawn, the Market is bustling with vendors getting in early to set up. This is especially true for those poor souls trapped in the middle part of the ring. When your truck doesn't fit under the roof, it's a long morning of carrying in items by hand. Then the great puzzle begins: When you only have 76 set spots and you have to fit 97 stalls in, creativity comes into play. We do have standards and rules about who can vend, but we're now at the point where the produce is flowing in. So begins the great Market shoehorn, keeping in mind the flow of shoppers, electricity, the path of the sun, parking, 10x10 tents, 8x8 tents, product placement, and a whole host of other crazy variables.
In case you've ever wondered, a stack of road cones is really heavy. I've never wondered how heavy, but I have dragged them around at Market enough to know. That's one of the many jobs required of the Market Master. We cone off stalls and sidewalks, along with setting up a myriad of no parking signs, Market signs, Double Up Food Bucks signs, banners, two tables and three chairs.
Once all of that is complete and the Market is off and running, a whole different set of duties arise. A typical day includes everything from answering questions of every variety, posting on social media, helping lost/hurt/hot/tired customers, and helping vendors, to writing contracts, enforcing Market rules, making things fit in the dumpster, and even stopping to do a little dance to the recently added Market music.
On a regular Saturday at this time, we will see somewhere around 10,000 shoppers come through between 6:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. That's a lot of people in one small space...and a lot of activity for one person to manage. Which is why I'd like to take this moment to send out kudos to our Market Master, Stephanie Kolodziejski. She can be found on any Market day in a snazzy blue apron. Be sure to stop and say hello! She does a great job. And I'm not gonna lie, I'm glad she's back from vacation!
-Kristy LeVasseur, Director of Communications/Farmers Market Manager, Midland Area Chamber of Commerce
Kristy LeVasseur manages the Midland Area Farmers Market, along with Stephanie Kolodziejski. Kristy takes care of things on the office side and Stephanie manages the Market on-site every week.