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Parties vying for control of farmers market

It appears the Saturday Farmers and Artisans Market will continue at the Port of Brookings Harbor next year – but by whom has yet to be determined.

Vi Burton, current coordinator of the market who is stepping down come Oct. 13, announced this week that Brookings couple Dale and Tina Kirkpatrick is willing to take over the popular summer event – but they may face competition.

Bruce Ellis, a volunteer event consultant at the port and co-organizer of the Pirates of the Pacific Festival, also wants to run the market – and he has submitted an application to the port to do so.

 

Vi and her husband, Len, have managed the popular Farmers and Artisans Market for years, but decided to step aside at the end of this season Oct. 13 to “move onto other things.” The market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday along the boardwalk at the Port of Brookings Harbor, features booths selling freshly baked goods, locally grown vegetables and fruits and handmade crafts, clothing and art.

The news that the show might be closing for good upset a few regulars, said Vi Burton.

“One lady from Grants Pass, they come out here, her husband fishes and she wanders around the market; she was really upset it might not happen again. It looks like she won’t have to be upset. She won’t have to miss a thing.”

When Ellis heard Vi was stepping down, he filed an application with the port to take over the event.

Vi didn’t know about Ellis’ intentions and he didn’t know she was trying to find someone from within to take over the market.

Ellis is not a port employee, and the port board would have to draft a new annual lease for the market regardless who takes charge.

But Ellis is determined.

“I don’t know how much I’d have to change,” he said, admitting he has rarely meandered to the market to peruse the wares. “Right off the bat, I’d want more fresh produce; I hear someone around here makes cheese. A little bigger, a little better. I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people, but I haven’t delved into it a whole bunch.”

That doesn’t sit well with Vi.

“I don’t want to work with Bruce,” she said. “I don’t want it turned into some kind of circus.”

Port officials were blindsided by the whole fiasco.

“This whole farmers market thing blew up this week; I’ve been taking phone calls all day,” said Tawndy Davidson, events coordinator for the port. “We haven’t had a chance to look at it.”

She said Ellis submitted an application just like anyone would who wants to host an event, and port manager Ted Fitzgerald has not had a chance to look at it.

“This week I heard Vi was stepping down and Dale was interested in taking over,” Davidson said. “That’s as far as anything’s gotten.”

Thursday, port officials and event promoters will meet to discuss the success of this year’s events; Davidson imagines the farmers market issue will rear its head. At that point, she said, she expects they’ll ask Ellis of his intentions.

She said the Burtons have the prerogative to choose who takes over their event.

“They are in charge of the farmer’s market,” she said. “But we’re their venue. We don’t pick and choose who takes over. If they want to hold their Saturday market, we’ll have to discuss that contract.”

Vi has confidence in the leadership abilities of the Kirkpatricks.

“They’re one of our vendors; they certainly could help out new vendors,” Vi said. “They know what it takes to show your work. They’re competent people and will be able to do a fine job of it. That’s a good thing.”

Dale crafts oversized mushrooms from gnarly burls of wood. Tina makes handmade, natural soaps.

The couple would like to keep the market non-commercial with all hand-crafted art and clothing. They hope to add more farmers to the mix.

“We’re excited to carry on Vi and Len’s tradition; it’s a nice staple to the community,” Dale said. ‘We want to nurture it and make Brookings the gem of the Oregon coast.”

Fitzgerald wants to see the market continue, but grow.

He remembers a farmer s market that was held near the U.S. Bank in Brookings about seven years ago that featured farmers and gardeners peddling a broad array of fruits and vegetables.

“And fishermen have licenses to sell fish and crabs off their boat or in the parking lot,” he said. “It’s a short step to sell that at a farmer’s market. How cool would that be? I’m hoping the farmer’s market goes that way.”

Ellis has a different take on the event.

“I applied; I took my paperwork down there,” Ellis said. “I’ve offered my services. I won’t work with Vi and Len,” he added, saying people are getting bored seeing the same stuff week after week.

Vi said she’d heard Ellis wanted to “make some changes because he thought it was dull.”

“The Farmers Market is fine; people love it,” she said. “We don’t need to make it into a circus, with bouncing things for children and loud bands.”

Ellis said the market has so much more potential.

“I want to make it more inviting,” he said. “Kick it up a notch, get some music. I’m a showman. Everything here is getting stagnant. I can do something with it. I see an opportunity to make something good.”

Fitzgerald said he would like to see more festival-type events at the port.

“But the farmers market is not a festival,” he said. “I envision it as specifically a conduit by which locally grown produce is available to people in the community. That’s what a farmers market is.”

Dale Kirkpatrick said he was a “little spooked” by the news Ellis wants to take over the market.

“I’m excited to carry on Vi and Len’s tradition,” he said. “The businesses there like it; they get a lot of foot traffic from it. The vendors are afraid Bruce might turn it into a party atmosphere, not be so low-key and friendly.”

“I want to find all the ins and outs, give it my best and kick it up a notch – give it an Emeril: Bam!” Ellis said. “I take everything by the horns; that’s how I roll.” 

 

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