WAYNESBORO – It wouldn’t be summer in Waynesboro without two things – Northside Pool and the Waynesboro Market at the Park.
It just wouldn’t.
If you’re a local resident, sometimes provincial to a fault, something inside you beckons you to stay close to your dwelling place and make a short trip to a place that offers a little of everything – from home-grown mushrooms to home-made soaps, donuts, cakes, even straw brooms, arts and crafts, and mouth-watering tamales and empanadas.
The list of stuff that’s for sale is too long to list here, so you’ll have to stop by between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays.
A food truck parked out front adds yet another layer to a setting that is buzzing with activity.
And don’t forget the musical guests. Brad Mun was on hand for opening day at Market at the Park playing his guitar and singing popular songs.
Waynesboro’s version of a farmer’s market is representative of the community and its attraction to local-grown fruits, vegetables and, of course, flowers, flowers, flowers.
For an enterprise like the farmer’s market to become a reality, it must first have a location. In 2017, the parklet was completed, giving the market a home.
Now in its fifth year, the market, somewhat tucked away between down-town buildings, has grown by leaps and bounds.
“Our goal was to have twelve vendors and 125 people,” said Bill Kohler, the director of economic development for Main Street Waynesboro Inc., “and we’ve never had a day when we’ve had under 250 and that’s when it’s raining and pouring.”
The market attracted 550 people and 24 vendors for a night market.
Market at the Park has come a long way since it’s, well, humble beginnings. Actually, it hit the ground running and was probably destined to become an endearing aspect of a small town with an affinity for fresh tomatoes, green vegetables, oh, and, meats.
“The farmer’s market has been the big thing that brings people downtown,” Kohler said. “We’ve had four businesses that started at the market and now have brick and mortar.”
Kohler was referring to Dawn and Dusk, which still sells donuts at the market but now has a building of its own called Postmasters.
Also included is Rough Edges, makers of craft beer, and Taqueria La Cienega.
Kohler co-worker Angie Smith, generous donors, event sponsors and a working relationship with the Borough of Waynesboro for the success of the weekly market as well as other projects undertaken by Mainstreet Waynesboro.
It must be said, however, that there is something unique and special about Saturday mornings downtown.
“We had forty-two vendors on Saturday (May 28). We can fit more. We can keep going out in the parking lot,” said Kohler.
Mainstreet Waynesboro also has its own building, the one right next door on the downtown square side. Kohler said that building will expand around 70 feet toward the back and house a brick oven pizzeria and brewery, and an office in the back.
Also on the list of projects is paving the parking lot in the back.
“It helps our organization to be sustainable so we can go for many years,” Kohler said of the building expansion.
Kohler looked back on the genesis of the market and recalled downtown Waynesboro years ago.
“I wanted to make the town more fun and interesting,” he said. “My goal was to bring life back to downtown – knowing that when I was a kid, we’re not going to have Sears, JC Penney and JJ Newberry. I knew the park was coming; the movie theater was just renovated.
“There’s still work to do. There’s always work to do. Part of that process was foot traffic. I did a lot of reading. I talked to people and went to some conferences.”