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Albany Tift Park Market successful despite weather

Large turnout at Friends of Tift Park Event

The first official Community Market of the Friends of Tift Park was disrupted briefly by a morning rain. The Market is planned for every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

The first official Community Market of the Friends of Tift Park was disrupted briefly by a morning rain. The Market is planned for every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

ALBANY — Shoppers at the first official Friends of Tift Park Community Market were greeted by an unexpected summer shower Saturday morning, prompting umbrellas to unfurl and impromptu clustering beneath the vendors’ tents.

After about an hour of unrelenting saturation, the rain slacked up around 11 a.m.

The inclement weather put something of a ding in market expectations — momentarily, anyway. While some of the shoppers tried to wait it out, others left, vowing to return. A few of 40 or so vendors at the park moved on.

“The rain was a little early today, according to the weather man,” said Susan Kear with S&K Crafts. “But we need it for the crops, the grass and the trees. You know, it is what it is. We’ll be back next Saturday in this same spot.”

Kear’s been selling bird feeders for about a month, she said, made from colored glass vases she finds at Goodwill stores and the Salvation Army.

“People seem to like (the feeders) and I’ve sold a few of them. Everyone likes recycling. It helps keep glass out of the landfills.”

Kear’s husband, Joel Smith, is the “S” in S&K. Smith and his hand-crafted walking sticks and canes share a tent with Kear.

“The rain helps my craft,” Smith said. “The vines grow around the limbs and trees I work with, so that way all I’m doing is taking mother nature’s craft and bringing it out here.”

Michelle Deese from Oakfied was present, happy to have a venue for her hand-made wreaths, and for a chance to support Tift Park.

“This is an opportunity that arts and crafts people don’t have ordinarily,” Deese said. “I just hope people will come out and support it so we can continue. We want to try and bring life back to Tift Park so it’s put to good use by the community.”

Shortly before noon, Pam Barkley, treasurer of FOTP, and a supporter of the organization, said the rain was a minor issue in the grand scheme of the marketplace idea.

Barkley said the rain slowed things down for a while, but the response for the first day was great.

“There’s been a tremendous crowd out here. The parking lots were full, and both sides of the streets. There had to have been several hundred people turning out,” she said.

Barkley said event organizers had been speaking to the vendors — who provide a wide array of useful, artful, melodic, educational, healthy or delicious products — and all of them planned to return next Saturday and for subsequent events.

“I’m really impressed with the support the community has shown,” said FTOP co-chairman Stephen Brimberry. “The vendors and farmers did really well, even with the rain, and I’m sure that when these people leave, it’s with positive thoughts.”

Brimberry said the FOTP movement got its grassroots beginning when a corner of Tift Park, an area between Jefferson Street and Palmyra Road just north of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, came close to being sold for commercial development. There was such an uproar from the community the sale was rescinded by the city, Brimberry said.

Now the loosely organized group has grown to include some 750 members. The idea is to use the park for the benefit the community and in the process raise some money to improve the historic city asset, Brimberry said.

Brimberry said there is currently no charge for market participation, either for attendees or vendors, though vendors must complete a registration form in advance of the event. The market is planned for every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Further information about the Tift Park Community Market and Friends of Tift Park is available online by emailing stephenskywater@aol.com