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Ferrisburgh resident working to put performances, markets in former Grange

FERRISBURGH — If the dream of one Ferrisburgh resident comes true, the town’s office building and community center will by next summer start hosting a series of monthly performances — and before then host two family-friendly artisans’ markets that will help fund that series.
Resident Kate Yarbrough has already met with the Ferrisburgh selectboard about getting its permission to establish the Grange Series and Grange Markets in the town’s Route 7 landmark, and board members gave her an essentially friendly reception on Nov. 15.
Yarbrough is set to meet with the board again on Dec. 6 to discuss necessary details, such as what she called the board’s understandable concern that an organization separate from the town should be set up that is capable of handling money and accepting donations.
“I need to get 501-C3 status so that the money that’s changing hands is a very transparent process,” Yarbrough said.
Once she handles that and other logistics, things could happen quickly. She hopes to have a dozen vendors in the community center upstairs from town offices on Saturday, Dec. 17, and to support the “Christmas Market” with horse-drawn wagons, kids games and refreshments. Eventually, she foresees three markets a year on a regular basis.
Yarbrough, a 2002 Middlebury College graduate who went on to earn a master’s degree at Dartmouth, said she knows the timeline is tight, but is confident things will work out.
“Really I could have used another month or two to try to get it together, but the enthusiasm from the vendors and the people who said they want to come motivates me to keep trying to get it together in time,” she said. “Because I think it will be beautiful. I would really like to have it be a family event. And maybe with this early snow I’m hoping our horse and wagon ride might be a horse and sleigh ride.”
She explained her motivation for the Series and the Markets in a handout at the Nov. 15 board meeting. Essentially, Yarbrough, who runs a documentary film business with her husband, Finn Yarbrough, wants to get people to know one another better, face to face.
“Ferrisburgh is a beautiful, rural town with talent and resourcefulness at the end of every dirt road, but in an age of technological connection, daily physical isolation is a problem that spans the generations. We need to find opportunities to bring people together, actively build unity in our communities, and foster social development,” she wrote.
Yarbrough said she has for years been nursing the idea of a series of concerts, films, dances and lectures. She also said she has always admired Ferrisburgh’s Town Hall, which is a replica of the historic Grange building that burned on the site in a 2005 fire.
After moving to Ferrisburgh in 2009, she and Finn had also attended events in other towns, such as the Ripton Coffee House, and she wondered if her new Town Hall could host similar performances.
“It struck me that was the way things were once in our Grange building, but that sort of thing had kind of fallen to the wayside,” Yarbrough said. “It was something that I thought I could help organize, but at the time I just didn’t have time.”
That was in part because of her young family. Just now their 4-year-old twins have begun preschool, allowing for some breathing room; a third child is almost two.
Yarbrough also said political divisiveness recently in the air sparked her into action.
“I don’t know if it’s the age my children are getting to, or the whole environment we’ve found ourselves in this last year,” she said. “But suddenly I felt very motivated to go ahead and start getting this together and off the ground.”
If all goes well, another market in the spring — Yarbrough told the selectboard that vendors would pay $50 to set up shop in the community center — could help fund the first performances next summer.
“If I could do the Christmas Market and perhaps the spring artisans or makers market, say in May, then I would hope to have enough money to start booking people to perform,” Yarbrough said.
What might happen first in a space that can hold an audience — or a group interested in dancing — of up to 200?
“Initially I’ve been thinking about musicians,” Yarbrough said. “I would love a Celtic music night to kick it off. I’d love to get some contra dances going.”
She hopes a consistent schedule would help increase attendance.
“There are other groups who are putting on events for the community, but if we had a place where people gathered regularly, say on the first Saturday of every month or something, where people could get in the habit of knowing something would be going on and just had to check to see what it was this month, then the turnout might be a little better.”
Yarbrough hopes the markets themselves can become must-visit events.
“Initially I was thinking of the Series as the main attraction because I think it’s got so much value for the community, and then these markets would support that Series financially,” Yarbrough said. “But the more I thought about the markets the more excited I got about creating a marketplace in Ferrisburgh for all the local artists and designers who are doing incredible things.”
 Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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