Farmers market opening in Constitution Square next month

Published 7:36 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

The fiscal court unanimously voted to approve a license agreement Tuesday for the Boyle County Farmers Market, which will begin setting up at Constitution Square Park sometime in late April. But that was after some intense discussion with Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jennifer Kirchner, who has been pushing for the market to be allowed in the park for the last four years.

A prior license, when the market used the park years ago, was used as a working document, with some areas changed, such as the $1,800 fee the court voted in February to waive for the market’s first year. The contract is for two years, and will be reevaluated to assess a fee before the second year begins.

The market will be open from 9 a.m. to around 1 p.m., said Russ Goodwin, chair of the market’s board — or “until we run out,” he said.

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Magistrate Phil Sammons, who is still not completely sold on the deal, noticed the license agreement stated “a portion of the park” would be available for the market’s use. He said he hoped that didn’t give vendors the right to set up inside the park itself.

“I thought it was just the perimeter, now I see it’s not and I don’t like that. What about it, counselor?” Sammons said to County Attorney Chris Herron.

Herron said the prior license agreement was very specific, and included a map. “But they wanted it more open, not just be one set spot” this time around, he said.

“It is setting up inside the park,” Goodwin said, and along the walkways. He said there’s not enough space to get all of the vendors situated even if the city had decided to close down Second Street, which it decided against.

“People are going to use the park,” Goodwin said.

“We understand that … but if they’re going to set up on Second and Walnut, don’t think you need to be inside the park itself,” Sammons said.

“Are you talking about inside the buildings?” Kirchner asked.

Sammons said no, “Inside the perimeter of the park.”

Magistrate Jamey Gay assured Sammons there would be no vehicles on park grounds.

Kirchner said, “And there’s nothing in the cabins.”

“But after they get through with it, set up their booths inside of it … “ Sammons said. “I want you guys to go down there and look at it in September, after they leave, and see what shape it’s in.”

Magistrate Jason Cullen asked Kirchner, “So there will be no use of the buildings? That’s a guarantee?”

“In the cabins? No,” Kirchner said. She said a “quilting workshop” would be held on a Saturday, with more programming in the works.

Tuesday, Kirchner said, “There is one small conversation with Mimi Becker, head of the Danville-Boyle County Arts Commission.” She said Becker wants to restore an old quilt with some “special quiltmakers.”

“This would be something you’d view while they did it. It would be like for two hours one day at the park. She thought it would be a nice setting, to have it done in a cabin. That’s all there is to that. There’s no stuff being sold out of cabins, no other uses of the cabins.”

Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said, “We know the sidewalk that goes around the perimeter of Walnut and Second Street … and to Governor’s Circle. How far inside the concrete will people be set up?”

“The same area Heart of Danville sets up for movie night,” Cullen said.

Kirchner said, “Mainly around Governor’s Circle and the stage area. The same part of the park that’s used all of the time for everything.”

Sammons called it “the center of the park,” which others disagreed with, pointing out how it’s in the front corner of the park. “Well, it’s pretty close …” he said.

Goodwin showed the court a map, and explained how Police Chief Tony Gray will close off one extra parking space in the turn lane of Second Street; and vendors will be set up in parking areas, as well as the stage area of the park.

“There are 30 vendors, and seven places to park on Second Street … a few more … but without doing this, there’s no way it can work,” he said.

“Let’s make sure if we allow them to come in certain parts of the park, they will make no changes to the park,” Cullen said. He doesn’t want to see “things hanging up on historic buildings.”

“That would never happen,” Kirchner flatly said.

Cullen said, “I would like to think it would never happen … but would like that we stress that.”

Kirchner said she will be “out there the whole time” for the first few markets. She said she’s worked a lot of events in her past, and has experience putting out fires when things go wrong.

“We have a good team, and we’re planning a soft opening in April. The park is so well used and I’m happy it is,” she said. 

Kirchner pointed out the same area the farmers would be setting up in is also used for church services, hosting hundreds of people with a tent for hours.

“This will be very similar to that. I’m so grateful, we’ve been trying to get it there for over four years. Seems like it’s a pretty easy win we should all be supporting,” Kirchner said.

“ … You guys going to be responsible for cleaning up, policing the area after they move out on the weekends?” Sammons asked Kirchner.

“Mmm-hmm,” Kirchner responded. She offered to come back again just before the market gets underway, but Hunt asked that it be after the market is “firmly established.”

Sammons said he was “still hung up on using the old buildings for farmers market. I don’t see quilting or anything included in on a vegetable deal. You were talking about using the old cabins for …”

Kirchner said, “No, I was addressing a magistrate’s question on other programming. There are a variety of all different kinds of people who want to use the park, and if I don’t know the answer, I always come here. There will be no things happening at the cabins in any disrespectful manner, whatsoever.”

Thursday, Kirchner said she had no clue where Sammons’ reservations were coming from. She said many years ago, when the park was under state control, “a few farmers set up there, but it lost steam,” and there were never any issues with them setting up or the condition the park was left in.

“It was the ‘stay off my lawn’ argument used from last time,” Kirchner said. She said the park currently has no grass due to the shade the older trees provide, “so I don’t see how this use has a negative effect on the grounds.”

Sammons said he had always voted against the market coming to the park in the past. “They’re just going to tear up the grounds, and you’ll have one or two of them in the buildings. If you let one person do something, they’re all going to do it.”

Sammons said, “To me, it’s not for a farmers market — it’s for people to visit and learn the history of our state.”

Kirchner said it’s the perfect community space to do just such events.

“Events are there all the time, and it’s our job to encourage that.” She said not all communities are as fortunate as Danville, “having a beautiful and significant historic site, integral to our downtown to bring commerce and community together.”

Kirchner added, “We have a partnership with McDowell House. It is a museum with valuable artifacts and should be treated as such with guided tours. Constitution Square is a park with self-guided tours and open-air attractions. As a historic site, it’s meant to be used and create a unique experience.”

Roger Fox, program director of Shepherd’s House drug treatment program, said he would be happy to offer his clients to help clean the park when needed. “If working to keep the park clean after the farmers market is something we can assist with, we would be happy to help.”

Goodwin said the full list of participating farmers will be released after the next board meeting, which will be held on March 28.