For many years, a farmer’s market flourished on Main Street in New Paltz. It was located in the lot where the Rock and Snow building has since been erected. It was highly visible both because it was on high ground, but also because weekend automotive traffic often proceeds at a crawl through that stretch. Several locations which have been tried since that lot became unavailable have not had the benefits of a Main Street location, but this year’s version will come closest, when the retooled New Paltz Open Air Market comes to Church Street.
The narrow, one-way section of Church that completes a triangle with Main and North Front streets has been closed for events in the past, including several times last summer, but this will be a weekly endeavor from Father’s Day through November. It’s not necessary to preserve the vehicular flow, and all business owners on the block are willing to try out turning it into a pedestrian mall Sunday afternoons, according to market manager Ariana Basco.
In one sense, closing Church Street was a solution in search of a problem, because village trustees were already agreeable to the experiment before siting the wandering farmers’ market was even suggested. The market was at the community center in 2015, and the parking lot outside of the justice court on Plattekill Avenue last year, but both were a bit too far off the beaten path to generate much foot traffic. Once trustees decided to experiment with a weekly closure, the two issues were married and Basco tapped to organize the effort.
With the new location, and the new name, comes a new focus. While farmers will be offering the freshest of local produce alongside artisans offering crafted items, there will also be live music to lure passersby around the corner from Main Street. That’s a holdover from last summer’s Church Street closures, but concerns raised about some of the acts selected last year mean that care is being taken to choose musicians with little or no amplification, and with more of a family-friendly feel. On opening day, June 18, that will mean Kyle James Miller will entertain shoppers. As vendors will be in front of other businesses, they won’t be selling anything that directly competes with what the permanent residents have on their shelves.
Even with that restriction, Basco said that the market will include fruits and vegetables, honey and syrup, mushrooms and mushroom logs, eggs and meats including duck, turkey, chicken and pork. Non-edible offerings will include bath products, upcycled furniture and handcrafted jewelry and fiber arts. Categories she hopes to fill before opening day include bread, beer, wine and cheese. Several business owners are mulling over having a table themselves. Vendors will be paying $20 per week to have a space. There are also limited table spaces for nonprofit organizations, with no sales allowed.
The organizational structure of the market has also been revitalized. A board of volunteers, including craft and produce vendors, will make decisions. Jay Armour, who long treated the farmers’ market as a labor of love, is still involved; Basco hopes to lean on him as an institutional memory even as they negotiate this new space. Governmental support is now clearly in evidence: the street closure itself is by order of the village board, and market funds will be deposited with the village treasurer for safekeeping.
Basco expects that some kinks will develop, but will quickly be ironed out. The temporary “no parking” signs will be put up Saturday once the meters are no longer in effect, at 6 p.m., but especially in the early weeks she expects some owners may not move their vehicles in time. Rather than get them towed, she said that the plan is to simply “build the market around them,” rendering the autos inaccessible rather than impounded. Vendors will have to remove their own vehicles after unloading, possibly to the spots next to village hall where the market was held last summer.
Religion also plays a factor: parishioners of the Goodwill Church will have to find other spaces in which to park, while plans to make the New Paltz Synagogue accessible in case of a funeral or other event which can’t be moved may end up being adjusted last-minute, if they’re ever needed. While the entire block will be technically closed to motor vehicles, Basco doesn’t expect vendors to be set up directly in front of that house of worship.
Should the market be deemed a success, Basco would like to see the parking rules formalized in a law and permanent signage, to reduce confusion. “It feels crazy to wrestle with it every week, if it’s long-term,” she said.
The New Paltz Open Air Market will operate 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays, starting June 18 and running through November 19. Live music will be performed from noon until 2 p.m.