New Paltz is a different place during the summer months than when college is in session. Traffic patterns change — although not necessary for the better — while taverns and pizza shops get a lot quieter. Robins build nests, poison ivy grows voraciously and on Sundays Church Street is closed to motorized traffic to make way for the New Paltz Open Air Market. The market is a treasure which college students can enjoy, as it is run weekly through October, but opening weekend isn’t until after most of them head out of town.
Built on the rich history of a farmer’s market which was located on Main Street until construction left that site unavailable, this will be the third year that a market is held weekly on Church Street. Under the care of manager Ariana Basco, the New Paltz Open Air Market weaves together many elements of the earlier farmer’s market with threads of New Paltz downtown life to hang a tapestry of community across the tiny, one-way road every Sunday. The Church Street location is visible from Main Street, and has space for not only the sale of local produce — an abundance which is one of the privileges of living in this region — but also other vendors, informational tables, live music and all the charm and ambience which already exists along this cozy cafe row.
Manager Basco says that there’s been an “overwhelmingly positive response” to the new location and all it brings. Not only is it a convenient and visible spot in the heart of the village, business owners on the street consider it to be a benefit as well. Many vendors are eager to return — a good indication that it makes business sense — and several more will be joining them for 2019. Look for all of last year’s favorites: Crust & Magic, Damn Good Honey, De Facto Community Center Project, Denizen Theatre, Don’s Polaroid Portraits, Grok Bites, H&K Gourmet, Commissary, Luigi Infused Oils, Pancake Hollow Sugarworks, Tributary Farm, Wright’s Farm and Xek Noir; new this year are Moonflower Breads, Owl Spirit Garden herbs, hot sauces from Ram’s Valley, Drifted Creations crafts and Doc Schwarz Wine Jelly. Vendors are selected by the market’s board members from all applications received.
The music sets this version of the market apart from its forebears. Live music — engaging enough to be enjoyable, but not loud enough to make conversation difficult — happens every week from noon until 2 p.m. Each week a different artist is paid to provide the ambience. Booked thus far are Emily Beck, Nina Manas, Kyle Carlson, Joseph Tobin, Anna May, and Andrew Jordan. Musicians, take note: there are still slots open, with a preference for solo acts and acoustic sets.
A nonprofit presence is fostered by offering space for free when there’s no retail sales involved. New this year is the New Paltz paint swap, an innovative exchange usually operated out of Village Hall which will be brought — cans and all — to Church Street, where partially-used cans of paint can be taken home for free. Paint donations are also part of the program, but Basco did not know at press time if donations will be accepted at the market or not. Normal drop-offs are the second Saturday of every month, from 9 to 11 a.m. on the second floor of the Village Hall.
With the market now solidly in this location, Basco is looking to hand off its management in future years. There are other ideas she’s mulled over which perhaps her successor will tackle, such as making it possible to accept food stamps at the market, and getting the street closures baked into village law rather than having to make a formal request every season. That’s all for another day, however; what’s important now are the dates of this year’s New Paltz Open Air Market: every Sunday from June 2 to October 28, with each of those 22 markets running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information is available on Facebook.