Photography by Lynn Vollbrecht
BELOIT — Whether looking for a custom-cut leather belt, some heirloom tomato plants, treats for the dog, sugar-free Cuban sweetbread from Chicago, homemade Italian pastries crusted with sugar, locally-raised elk or a bounty of fresh asparagus, the Beloit Farmers Market had it all and more this Saturday. If you wanted strawberries, though, you had to get there early.
The market had its biggest opening weekend ever, and organizers, vendors and patrons alike have deemed that first day a success.
“We had more vendors than ever in the history of our market on opening day,” said Kathleen Braatz, executive director of the Downtown Beloit Association, which runs the market. “Crowds were great throughout the morning. We draw thousands of shoppers each week from around the Stateline area, and we expect to see this number grow.”
Sixty-six farmers, crafters, cooks, bakers, gardeners and other vendors set up shop Saturday morning, lining the streets of State Street and Grand Avenue in downtown Beloit and filling the air with the smell of cinnamon (from the mini donut stand) and grilled meat (from Pepperheads Pirate Sauce). Despite overcast skies and threats of rain, the streets were packed with people and business was booming. So much so, in fact, that farmers Kathy and Hank Baumann of Beloit Township set a personal record for selling their produce. Their 120 pounds of asparagus, 60 quarts of strawberries and 20 pounds of rhubarb sold out in an hour and a half.
“I said, ‘oh, it’s our record!’” Kathy Baumann said, pleased that, for once, she’d have the time to experience the market as a customer rather than a vendor. “I never get to walk around, this is a treat for me. And the weather held out! I was so happy — I thought it was going to rain.”
The Beloit Farmers Market takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 31, in downtown Beloit.