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Downtown officials selling idea of farmers' market





It's not a new concept in many cities, but to Hays residents, the idea of a downtown farmers' market is gaining popularity and is expected to come to fruition this summer.

The Downtown Hays Market, announced by the Downtown Hays Development Corp. in April, is set to open Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings starting in June at a location on 10th Street between Main and Fort.

"I'm very excited," said Sarah Cearley, Downtown Hays Market committee member and owner of Bella Luna Boutique. "No matter what, it's going to be complementing what the downtown already has.

"The additional products and the new merchants would just be a great addition."

The process of reviewing market regulations is under way, and according to DHDC Executive Director Traci Konrade, positive responses from potential vendors are coming in.

"Some are experienced vendors and some are new vendors that are wanting to have a new outlet to sell things," she said.

One seasoned vendor, newly elected city commissioner Shaun Musil, said he is willing to try the new location this summer, although he said he might rotate between the Hays Area Farmers Market, located at Orscheln Farm and Home, and the downtown market.

As a vendor at the Hays Area Farmers Market for the past two years, Musil said he has enjoyed the support from Orscheln employees as well as the atmosphere and community feeling of the market.

Selling potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, peas, cucumbers and onions grown on the football field converted to a garden by his father Melvin Musil, Edson, Shaun Musil said he was looking forward to the upcoming season.

"I'm going to try downtown," Musil said. "I love our downtown, and I think it could be great."

Response to the Downtown Hays Market project has been "tremendous," Konrade said, and shows a community demand.

"We've known it was a need in the community," she said. "We've heard that through the comprehensive plan.

"We've heard it through word of mouth. But to actually see that happen, through the calls, the texts and the messages I get inquiring about it is just really tremendous."

The market, Cearley said, has the potential to draw "more culture" and some new faces to downtown.

"We're hoping to get some younger people, maybe some college students down here that may not have visited downtown," she said. "Kind of bring in a wider variety of people and just expand the market that we already have."

Efforts to see a downtown pavilion, which hit the skids earlier this year due to opposition from Union Pacific Railroad, still continue, Konrade said.

"Since we were waiting to hear back on some things (from UP), we didn't want to lose momentum and we didn't want to lose the opportunity to bring a great market to downtown," Konrade said. "So we're going to take this step first and continue to work on the pavilion and hopefully get it accomplished so we can get it (the farmers' market) evolved into that building."

The search for market manager, a position that will be funded through $25 per season vendors' fees, recently was launched. The market manager will oversee market operations Wednesdays and Saturdays, posting signage and tidying up after the markets.

The market will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturdays starting June 8. In addition to fresh produce, the market is hoped to provide an outlet for crafters, artists and musicians.

For more information, email market@downtownhays.com.