A night at the park

Families take a break from shopping to enjoy the playground equipment at Nathan Strong Park. Joe Schulz photos

by Joe Schulz

Tuesday nights in Berlin, music echoes down East Huron Street, tents fill Nathan Strong Park and families come together for the Berlin Farmers and Artists Market.

The market runs Tuesdays from June through September between 4 and 7 p.m., with live music starting at 6 p.m.

Market committee member Catrina Burgess believes the market has something for everyone.

“We’re not just a farmer’s market; we’re an artist’s market (too) so we bring the best of both worlds together,” she said. “Some people don’t want to come shop, they just want to sit and mingle and listen to music.”

Each week, the market also features a volunteer tent, where community organizations fundraise by selling hot food.

According to market committee member Michele Cassidy, the market began in 2008 and was in a variety of locations over its first few years, before setting up shop in Nathan Strong Park about six years ago.

When it started, the market had eight vendors and was organized by one person.

Vendors fill Nathan Strong Park for the Berlin Farmer’s and Artists Market. Joe Schulz photo

“There were several market coordinators throughout the years,” committee member Andi Rogers said. “When the last coordinator wanted to step down, Michele Cassidy stepped up and organized the committee that is currently in place.”

The committee formed three years ago and is comprised of three non-vendors and four vendors.

Burgess believes having both vendors and non-vendors on the committee gives it an important insight into both sides of the market.

Cassidy noted the formation of the committee has been essential to the market’s growth, as it now has 40 vendors.

“The attendance has I would say tripled, if not quadrupled,” she said.

The committee splits up tasks based on the members’ areas of expertise.

“Annamae [Cawell] has an accounting firm in town, she’s our treasurer; I’m a photographer, so I do a lot of our social media,” Burgess said as an example.

Committee members who aren’t official vendors run a booth selling custom T-shirts and popcorn, with proceeds going to the market.

Encouraging folks to check out the Berlin Farmers and Artists Market are, from left, Committee members: Michele Cassidy, Annamae Caswell, Andi Rogers, Catrina Burgess, Terry Przybyl, Deidre Sauer, Kimberly Francek and volunteer Libby Struve. Joe Schulz photo

“All of the funds that we raise, and all of our vendor fees, go toward putting the music in the park on,” Burgess said. “It’s not cheap and we work completely off donations.”

Since moving to the park, the market has featured live music. But it didn’t have music every single week until three years ago as the committee has made it a priority to have an artist booked week in and week out.

“Our goal is to have music each and every week,” Burgess said.

When a musician cancelled just a few days before a concert in July, the committee scrambled, and local musician Ben Cloyd stepped forward last minute to perform during the market.

Burgess noted the market’s sponsors are integral to bringing in live music each week.

“Our budget really only allows for us to have one musician, or a duet once in a while. Many of the musicians have bigger bands; we just can’t afford them,” Burgess said. “We’re always open to more sponsorships to bring in bigger bands.”

She believes having live music each week has helped the market grow.

“If we didn’t have music, I don’t think we’d be as big as we are,” Burgess said.

Beyond music, the committee also works with the city to help benefit local business and expand the market.

“We have been able to incorporate multi-level marketing businesses such as Pampered Chef and Norwex,” Rogers said. “We have decided to open spaces for these business at a 3-to-1 ratio with the growers and artisans so that the market has an overall hometown feel.”

She added the partnership gives marketgoers wider selection to choose from.

“We have also seen one vendor move herself to a downtown Berlin storefront [since coming to the market],” Rogers said. “Supporting local is very important to us.”

The market is always open to including new vendors.

“We haven’t turned anybody away yet,” Burgess said.

The market’s mission is to create a gathering space and to educate consumers about how and where they can purchase local goods.

“We want Nathan Strong Park to be the place to be Tuesdays in Berlin,” Burgess said. “There’s nothing else like this in town.”

While the market serves as a gathering place most Tuesdays, one thing that’s given the committee headaches has been the weather.

Burgess noted a heatwave in July negatively effected attendance.

“We had a really talented singer booked and it was 100 degrees,” she said.

When Mother Nature is cooperating, Burgess believes seeing seats filled with people and the park filled with vendors each week is all the reward the committee could ask for.