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Open-air market arrives in Follansbee

A VARIETY OF ITEMS — Joan Simonetti chatted with Richard Beekman of Shadyside, Ohio, one of several vendors who participated in the first Open Air Market held Tuesday by the Brooke County Economic Development Authority in cooperation with the city of Follansbee. (Photo by Warren Scott)

FOLLANSBEE — With the cooperation and support of city leaders, the Brooke County Economic Development Authority is working to bring some outdoor activity to the city’s south end business district.

On Tuesday vendors of a variety of crafts and food moved into the city parking lot by the former Eagles Lodge in the 700 block of Main Street for the first of a series of open air markets planned by the volunteer group.

The market will return Thursday and continue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday for several weeks.

Joan Simonetti, a local resident participating in the AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America program, noted the market has been in the works for several weeks.

Earlier this summer adults and students involved with the Energy Express summer reading program built planters for the market, which were filled with flowers supplied by Ruth’s Pets and Plants.

Simonetti noted the Wilkin Flower Shop of Wellsburg also donated carnations to beautify the site.

And Simonetti and WVU Extension Agent Norm Schwertfeger have been recruiting craft, food and other vendors to operate booths there.

Simonetti said there’s still room for more, noting they may set up shop in the lot for either three-hour block or both. She and other organizers also are interested in bringing food trucks to the site.

Vendors must be from within a 50-mile radius of the city selling locally produced merchandise that can include fruits and vegetables, crafts, art, baked goods, jams, jellies, relishes and other food.

Those interested may call the extension office at (304) 737-3666 or e-mail her at bceda2003@outlook.com.

Simonetti said the goal is to attract more visitors to the area, and the group would be happy to help promote local restaurants that are in close proximity to the market.

With the cooperation of owners of the former Citizens Bank of Follansbee, the group hopes to establish a business incubator there, where aspiring businesses may temporarily operate before branching out on their own.

To encourage participation in the open air market, vendors unable to personally attend may sell their wares through its consignment table.

A small percentage of the sales will go to the market, said Councilwoman Alexis Russell, who volunteered to man the table.

Among vendors on hand Tuesday were Barbara Pritchard of Follansbee, who brought an assortment of crocheted dolls, decorative towels, pillows and aprons and hand-painted necklaces and other items.

A retired photographer, Pritchard said she normally participates in Follansbee Christmas in the Park, one of many events that has been called off this year because of the pandemic.

“This year is hard because all of them are canceled because of COVID-19,” she said.

Simonetti said she hopes the market can help to fill that void. She added vendors will be invited to share contact information so potential customers may order items from them in advance if they choose.

Richard Beekman of Shadyside, Ohio brought an array of wooden kitchen utensils.

Beekman said after cutting the basic shapes for the tools with a band saw, he carves and sands them using non-power tools.

A retired schoolteacher, he took up the hobby after attending a woodcarving show at Oglebay Park four years ago.

Also participating Tuesday was Mark “Wiggi” Wiegmann of Colliers, who had a variety of produce for sale.

Wiegmann said his ancestors settled in Colliers in 1862 and his family has operated a farm there ever since.

In recent months he added two high tunnels to the greenhouses he’s kept near the intersection of Harmon Creek and Mechling Hill roads and is using them to cultivate tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and bok choy.

Wiegmann plans to expand the market he’s established there to include Christmas trees and poinsettias and other seasonal items.

Across from Wiegmann was Heather Tokas of Butterflies from Heather, who brought jewelry and art featuring butterflies, seeds for growing plants attractive to the insects and even chrysales from which butterflies can be hatched.

Adjacent to her booth was a butterfly tent where visitors could enter to get a closer look at the insects.

Tokas also is known for supplying butterflies for release at weddings and other special occasions, and she will be bringing some for release on Sept. 22, when the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce will hold a ribbon cutting to formally welcome the market at 5:30 p.m.

Simonetti said Grow Ohio Valley, a Wheeling based nonprofit group that has established community gardens there, will be on hand on that day with its food truck.

She said local leaders have been very supportive of the endeavor, with the chamber also helping to promote it and the city providing for porta-jons as well as use of its parking lot.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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