By Walt Gajewski
For more photos from Opening Day, click here and scroll down.
The Farmington Farmers Market is now officially open, operating every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the corner of Grand River and Grove Street in downtown Farmington. Let’s make that clear because, well, let’s just say that while we banged a drum at our May 16 opening, we didn’t tell many people about it. An insidious virus has driven us behind masks. Things feel and are more hushed as we just go about our business quietly and scurry back inside our homes.
May 16 was surreal a opening – actually, more unreal in the sense that we are used to grand celebrations when we open: live music, open cooking and people browsing rows upon rows of plants and flowers with a hot coffee in one hand and a Petey’s donut in the other while kids tug impatiently to find the Little Sprouts corner or to run around in the park.
This opening wasn’t like that. We wore masks. There were no plants or flowers or donuts, no children’s play area – in fact, no children. The park was closed. Only one member per family was allowed to enter. In other words, it was a far cry from any previous market opening.
But one thing was on full display. While the coronavirus foisted layered restrictions on us, our traditions were clearly evident. Under clear and gloriously wide, blue skies on this sunny Saturday in the middle of May, a resolute rat-a-tat burst from a lone drummer ushered in our mayor Sara Bowman’s steadfast welcome. That was followed by the singing of our national anthem – thank your, Rachel Rose, director of Farmington’s Thistle Rose Academy of Arts – and the ringing of the market bell – thank you, Miss Farmington, Emma Hahn.
Meanwhile, a solitary, unflinching color guard – Ray Berry of Farmington’s Groves-Walker American Legion Post 346 – stood erect on the bricks of the market, quietly holding our flag high. The insidious virus that still weighs on our daily existence and distances us from each other could not wrest our hands from over our hearts as we few stood together in community.
Drummer Zach Desjarlais may have summed it up best. Desjarlais is a 20-something percussion director at Farmington High School. On a normal opening day, he would have stood off to the side as a full percussion line followed uniformed veterans parading into the market with our flag held high while community leaders and a sea of vendors, volunteers and visitors clapped and cheered them on.
But on this opening day, there was no drumline, just Desjarlais who got us cheering with a brief but spirited drum-roll welcome made from a fast flurry of airborne drumsticks. His exclamation-point finish with a two-handed, hands-over-head, final bang got us all clapping and cheering.
A half hour later, Desjarlais reappeared. Drums gone, hands in pockets, he stopped six feet from me and said with expressive eyes above his mouthless mask: “I just wanted to say that, well, being here today, I don’t know, I guess I just feel better about myself…”
The farmers market is free and open to the public. On Opening Day we welcomed more than 500 people. We learned a lot. Last Saturday, the second market day, we opened to plants and flowers and whole families, and more than 1,300 came. “I think everyone felt safe being at the market,” said the market’s volunteer coordinator, Mary Martin. “Everyone was respectful, courteous and appreciative.”
To that I can only add: Welcome to Farmington. Until next time, then and as always, here’s saying: See you at the market!