Opinion

BARKOVICH: Market has a lot growing for it

Joe Barkovich

By Joe Barkovich, special to Postmedia News

The new gateway gives curb appeal to Welland Market Square from Division Street. (Joe Barkovich/Special to Postmedia News)

The new gateway gives curb appeal to Welland Market Square from Division Street. (Joe Barkovich/Special to Postmedia News)

After 110 years, our farmers market still has plenty of life.

If I can be allowed a bad pun, it has a lot growing for it. Get it?

The City of Welland deserves a good word or two for its efforts in marketing the market as a place to visit and shop Saturday mornings.

Here they are: Good job!

Infrastructure improvement is helping.

The new gateway off Division Street, made possible by removal of a former restaurant, was a stroke of genius. It gives the market great exposure off Division Street and the entrance has eyeball appeal.

Special attractions are helpful in bringing people to have a look-see at what’s going on.

The Jammin’ at the Market Concert Series has been one of those special attractions.

This seven-week program has brought local entertainers, some well known, others not, to the market for one-hour performances. It wraps up this Saturday.

Last Saturday, talented singer-songwriter Jessica Wilson put on a great show, one that had many marketgoers stopping in their tracks to catch her “singin’ and strummin” as Wilson described it. The gig gave her opportunity to show off her pipes and acoustic guitar skills. She threw in a piece or two of her own to give the audience a taste of her songwriting ability.

The 21-year-old is a graduate of Centennial Secondary School, and Windsor’s St. Clair College. She has a busy month of appearances ahead of her, including Thursday, Sept. 21, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Black Sheep Lounge on Niagara Street and Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Street Feast Festival here in town from 2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

The week before, Niagara Region Olde Tyme Fiddlers provided the entertainment.

These guys offered toe-tapping, foot-stomping music interspersed with stand-up comedy. We could have done without the stand-up, in my opinion.

Years and years ago, it was largely an ethnic crowd that showed up at market week after week. You knew that by eavesdropping on conversations going on between old friends, chatter in languages like Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian and Croatian for example. You knew that by the number of “babas”, old women, who came to market and bought live chickens to take home with them for use in Sunday’s homemade soup.

The ethnic presence is still there but it is nowhere near what it used to be.

The market crowd nowadays is younger and trendily fashionable. Many a “baba” came to market wearing a long dress, apron, rubber boots and kerchief on her head; nowadays you are apt to see tight-fitting jeans or shorts, designer tees and expensive shades.

But one thing that hasn’t changed: the market remains a place to renew old friendships and make new ones.

It was a favourite place of the late Peter Kormos, who visited week after week, not only at peak times or election times but throughout the season. Mr. Kormos liked pressing the flesh and giving an attentive ear to people who enjoyed having opportunity to bend his at this old stomping ground.

Two Saturdays ago, the city’s promotion celebrated 110 years of market history. It was a successful event because the turnout that morning was said to be one of the top two or three of the summer, and last Saturday’s wasn’t far behind.

Old chum Pat Rothwell, who attends most Saturday mornings, said in his opinion, attendance has been better this year than a few previous years.

He enjoys the camaraderie and the banter of the market crowd, but also having a bite to eat, alone or with friends, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church’s market cafe.

The market offered an abundance of fresh Niagara tender fruit the past few Saturdays, how blessed we are to have the quantity and variety available to us, especially during these mid to late-summer weeks.

As far as the future is concerned, it’s hard to say what’s in store for a farmers’ market such as ours.

It can be a chore to bring back vendors year after year and it can be difficult for vendors to compete with big stores that can sell produce far below market price.

Take corn, for example: 15 cents an ear at places like Wal-Mart some weeks, compared to $6 or $7 a dozen at a market vendor’s table. Oh well, at least they throw in the bag not no cost if you come without one.

Thankfully, to many of us our market is a cherished tradition, a meeting place that has spanned decades, cultural differences and economic challenges. Yesteryear’s “babas” live on in grandchildren and greatgrandchildren who attend in their place, and market newcomers add vitality and effervescence of their own.

Saturday mornings, there’s no place they’d rather be.

— Lifelong Welland resident Joe Barkovich has spent much of that time watching people. He continues to be amazed seeing the best and not so best in us, but that’s life. Get a glimpse of how Joe sees our part of the world in his weekly column. He can be reached at whererailsandwatermeet@gmail.com



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