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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The sweet melodies of a band and the fresh smell of food drifted over a dozen children who danced and twirled barefoot in a grassy courtyard.

A week ago, a scene like this would not have been possible.

The Union Street Farmers' Market debuted Wednesday at the Downtown Community Plaza after outgrowing its previous location at the Sun Center Mall.

The new venue at East University Avenue and Southeast First Street hosted 32 booths, which sold foods, handicrafts, jewelry and clothing.

"The sale of local produce and products are essential to the vendors of this market, and I believe this change of location will bring in more customers, which will ultimately help us," said Leslie Kurtz of Kurtz and Sons Dairy.

This week the farmers' market worked out the "bugs" of organizing the vendors into the new location, and the market is expected to run more efficiently next week, she said.

Four booths down, a man dressed in a faded red T-shirt bagged a small jar of orange-blossom honey and rearranged golden jars of flavored honey, which sat on a red-checkered tablecloth.

The honey vendor, Charlie Lybrand, is also the director of the market.

"Union Street felt like home, but it was time to move to a bigger location," he said.

The market plans to slowly expand to encompass the entire plaza area, Lybrand said.

The expansion will begin next week with new booths, he said.

Lybrand said he believes that when the market becomes bigger, people will sell more, and profits will ultimately increase.

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In addition to selling honey and directing the market, Lybrand is also a member of Taliesin and the Cypress Sols, a band that regularly plays at the market.

"I am happy right now, but when I get on stage and get the music going, I will be happier," he said.

Lybrand said he believes the change of venue will prompt more bands to come out and play on Wednesdays.

The large green lawn provides a great place for kids, families and spectators to relax and listen to live music, he said.

Facing away from the green lawn, three women under the Terranova Catering Co. tent waited on a line of six customers.

Barbara Cook, owner of Terranova Catering Co., said the move to the new location is encouraging.

It gives her company access to more customers, she said.

"This plaza is underused, and I think that holding the farmers' market here every week is just what the downtown area has needed," Cook said.

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