By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater has been nourishing the soul with quality entertainment since it officially opened its doors in July. The historic venue will take on the added role of nourishing the body beginning on Nov. 1, when it hosts the first in a series of Saturday “winter markets” that are slated to stretch until next spring.
The “Middlebury Winter Markets” are being spearheaded by the Addison County Localvores. Bay Hammond, a member of the localvores group, explained that Middlebury resident Kate Gridley informally floated the idea last year.
“She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have access to local goods and foods throughout the year?’” Hammond recalled.
Others took a shining to the concept, to the extent that the localvores — affiliated with the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACoRN) — decided to explore the feasibility of a winter market. Hammond explained that the market could logically become an extension of the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, though that organization has been very busy with its summer/fall offerings each Wednesday and Saturday in the Marble Works.
“Our main goal was to just get (a winter market) up and started,” Hammond said of the localvores’ role this year. “It seemed like the time was right. There are a lot of winter markets popping up all over the state.”
Localvores found willing partners in the THT and its executive director, Douglas Anderson.
“(Anderson) loved the idea,” Hammond said. “We have been working hard to set up dates.”
Organizers believe the THT space will accommodate around 18 vendors, who are likely to sell types of produce with a longer shelf-life (potatoes, garlic, various herbs), as well as frozen meats, baked goods, prepared foods, breads and crafts.
Vendors will be charged a seasonal membership of $20 and a $10 table fee for each winter market at which they sell their wares. Proceeds will go to pay the THT for use of the space, with perhaps some left over for promotions.
Organizers said the winter markets will primarily be scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A few of the markets, however, will be slated for 9 a.m. to noon, in order to accommodate matinee performances at the THT.
People will be able to learn more about the winter market events — slated for 10 Saturdays from Nov. 1 through April 25 — by logging onto www.addisoncounty.locallygrown.net.
Hammond is confident there will be good support for a winter market, just as there was for farmers’ markets in Middlebury, Bristol and other area communities this summer. With gas prices high and people taking a greater interest in how and where their food is produced, it all “seems to come back to the dinner table,” Hammond said.
Andrea Ochs, vice president of the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, said this year’s edition was undoubtedly one of the most successful of the past five years. She attributed the success to not only a growing trend of people shopping local, but to the able stewardship of market Coordinator Pam Taylor. Taylor introduced some new innovations to the market this year, including the acceptance of debit cards and Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. She has also made sure the market has run smoothly, with interesting entertainment offerings to enhance the shopping experience.
“(Taylor) has helped us offer a vibrant market,” Ochs said.
The Middlebury Farmers’ Market vendors list is now up to 60, with more than 45 on hand for a typical Saturday, Ochs said. The market is carrying a waiting list of around five vendors wanting to get in on the act.
“I’ve been coming to the market since 1998, and I’ve seen the market get bigger and better,” Ochs said.
The last Middlebury Farmers’ Market this year will be on Saturday, Oct. 25. The last Wednesday edition will be on Oct. 15.
Bristol’s farmers’ market has also blossomed this year, according to Joan Cook, one of around 20 vendors at that regular event.
“We had more produce this year, and that tends to draw more people in,” Cook said.