It's held 4 to 7 p.m. at Veterans Park through August 30.
PLAIN TWP. Under sunny skies, families picked out heirloom plants, browsed a display of dog treats and grabbed dinner from a line of colorful food trucks.
Wednesday kicked off the seasonal Plain Township Farmers' Market, held weekly from 4 to 7 p.m. at Veterans Park. The market runs through Aug. 30.
The township began its farmers' market last year. Township trustees charged Parks Director Rob Steinberg with creating more community events. After food truck rallies failed to take root, Steinberg decided to try a market instead.
"Last year, when a lot of markets folded, ours just kept growing. The vendors kept coming. People kept coming," Steinberg said.
But the event needed some work, so Plain spent the off-season retooling.
Steinberg did surveys asking for feedback. The township brought on Jena Grosschmidt, the owner of sustainability consultants Know Your Roots, as market coordinator.
The event was moved from Monday to Wednesday. The midweek time slot avoids conflicting with other weekend markets and takes advantage of a day left open when another area market closed.
"We're here to invite people in, not compete against others," Steinberg said.
It also gives growers and vendors a chance to recover from weekend markets. Holding it in the evening attracts families leaving work or school events, as well as those visiting the dog park or exercising on Stark Park trails, he said.
The market allows pets, has live music and a kids' tent where children can do supervised activities as their parents shop.
Melissa Anslover and her family brought their tiny dog, dressed in a superhero costume, to check out the market. The family moved to a new home nearby last year.
"It gives us ideas of what's new around the community," Anslover said.
Grosschmidt recruited a diverse mix of vendors, including food trucks, that complement rather than compete, she said.
Everything sold must be from the greater Stark County area and either homegrown or homemade, though other businesses and organizations can display information without making sales.
The township tried to keep the market relaxed without too many restrictions, Steinberg said.
"We want people to understand that we're a community market, we're a laid back market. We want you to be a part of our community," he added.
Grosschmidt uses social media to promote vendors, an approach that seems to be successful, she said.
That promotion was a big draw for Vicki Martin, owner of Victoria's Cottage. The business — which specializes in herb blends, dried herbs, plants and jewelry — returned to the market for the second year.
"I don't see any other market advertising" the way Plain does, she said, adding that she's been selling at markets off-and-on for 28 years.
Last year's market was a struggle, but Martin decided to come back because she knew Grosschmidt was working hard to improve things.
Wednesday's market had a handful of vendors, but organizers are planning on a bigger turnout as the summer progresses and crops are harvested.
Plain is one of the first local markets to open this season. It hopes to attract a new type of vendor: Wineries.
Last fall, the Ohio Legislature passed a law allowing farmers' markets to get a permit to sell wine. Plain Township trustees earlier this year agreed to wine sales at the event.
As far as organizers know, Plain is the only local market to get such a permit so far, Grosschmidt said.
"Wine and beer isn't what it was 20-something years ago. It's a craft. It's an art. It's a new trend," Steinberg said. "It's refined. It's comfortable. It's family friendly. It's geared toward coming together."
Opening day didn't have any wine sales, but wineries are on board to join the market in the next month or so, Grosschmidt said.
There are some restrictions. Because the market is in a park, wineries can't offer tastings. Wineries also can't sell varieties that they sell retail but can sell wine they offer for sale at their vineyard or tasting room.
"It really gives customers an opportunity to get something unique when they come," she said. "It's a great platform for wineries to get products to customers directly."
Wine sales can round out an evening for shoppers who can grab everything for a nice meal at the market, Steinberg said.
"What else do you want to do on a Wednesday afternoon, especially if you have a family, but come out to a park, enjoy the fresh air, enjoy the nice weather," he said. "... And mingle with folks from different walks of life."
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