Jun 12, 2008 Annette Hogan Uncategorized
The folding table from Ma & Pa’s Kettle Corn blew about 15 yards across the parking lot into Ben Paine’s farm truck, making several large dents. Grower Josie Nicotra said he had to duck out of the way. A tornado warning and visible bright lightning bolts combined with a heavy downpour and high winds at lunchtime on Tuesday June 10.
Welcome to opening day at the 35th annual downtown farmer’s market.
Market Manager, Chuck McFadden said there were lots of flying objects. He was hit in the back and legs. “I was nailed by a flying table,” he said.
His assistant slipped while loading equipment onto a rain-soaked truck. “No one was seriously hurt,” he added.
Moe Harrington, who was helping out at Little Joe’s Fresh Homegrown Vegetables, said the downtown committee’s security people were good about letting them know that a storm was brewing but she had underestimated how fast it was moving.
“The entire place was packed to the gills,” she said, then most hightailed it out of there.
Vendors had been warned about a storm with 40 to 50 mph winds, and were asked to take down tents well before it hit, said Downtown Committee Security Officer, John Marcon.
A large turn out of 43 vendors started that morning well before the 7 a.m. start.
“It was an excellent market until the storm blew in,” said McFadden, who is also the Downtown Committee director of operations.
Downed flowerpots, soggy doughnuts and spilled baskets of potatoes and tomatoes floated in the parking lot at South Salina and West Washington streets. Before the remaining five or six vendors were finished scooping up well-washed strawberries and cherries, or picking up overturned flats of petunias, customers started lining up to buy their sodden wares.
“How much for the bananas?” one consumer asked a visibly shaken farm girl.
“If you’re a farmer like I am, you can expect everything–that’s Mother Nature,” Josie Nicotra said.
He lost about $200 in sales, including his vegetable and flower seedlings that were blown clear away.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Liz Panek of Slow to Go organic prepared foods said it was pretty bad, likening it to the battlefield in Iraq minus the shrapnel.
Joe McGeary of Little Joe’s Fresh Homegrown Vegetables called the storm, ” a nightmare and a half.” He estimated that the storm cost him $500.
Ben Paine put his doughnut machine away before the storm arrived. He feels he probably lost $500 to $600 in sales. Luckily, he still has the machine and his grandmother’s recipe. His 10-year-old son Jeremy said, “It was scary.”
Esther Paine, Ben’s mother, received the Downtown Committee’s Award of Excellence an hour earlier than scheduled because of the storm, said Director of Communications Kevin Schwab. She was instrumental to the success of the resurrected downtown farmer’s market in 1973.
“She and her family are very well respected in the agricultural community here,” Schwab said.
We survived well and cleaned up well, McFadden said. There were vendors that chose to stay and sell after the storm and subsequent customers weren’t aware of the bad weather.
“It was amazing how many people asked what happened,” he said.
A regular at the downtown market, the noted local drummer, Cathy LaManna said it was too bad that the storm happened on the first day of the market.
The downtown farmer’s market will run every Tuesday through Oct. 14 from 7a.m. to 4 p.m. rain or shine — unless another tornadoes is forecasted then it’s touch and go.