Bristol residents launch effort to create new summer event

BRISTOL — What began as nostalgia for the former Bristol Farmers Market has evolved into a concerted effort to launch a new monthly summer event in town — part market, part community gathering and part to-be-determined.

“I loved the old Bristol Farmers Market on the green on Saturday mornings years ago,” wrote Bristol resident Amy Elkins on Front Porch Forum last month. “I would love to see it return.”

Terri Mayer Thomsen agreed.

“I also wish we had a Farmers Market,” Thomsen wrote in the same forum. “Is there anyone out there that feels the same way?”

The answer, in short, is “yes.”

And last week seven of those people gathered at Lawrence Memorial Library to continue brainstorming ideas for an entity that would both draw inspiration from the former Bristol Farmers Market and transcend some of its limitations.

From that meeting emerged a name and a mission statement.

“Bristol Friday in the Park” seeks to “provide a diverse, inclusive community event that offers fun and meaningful connections through family friendly activities and convenient access to locally grown, created or crafted products and businesses,” planners told the Independent in an email.

Financial accessibility and support for local vendors are also key to that mission, said co-organizer Sally Burrell.

The Bristol Farmers Market was founded in the mid to late 1990s by Diane and Erin Heffernan and lasted until 2014, said Eugenie Doyle, who owns and operates Last Resort Farm in Monkton, and who co-managed the Bristol Farmers Market for a time.

In early 2015, just months after the farmers market dissolved, the town’s local food market, Mountain Greens, announced that it would be closing its doors.

The Bristol community attempted to rally.

Almost Home Market on North Street offered to stock items that shoppers most loved buying at Mountain Greens, and a group attempted that winter to organize the beginnings of a food co-op in the town.

Later that year Jess Messer at Tandem on Main Street began coordinating a monthly summer “Night Market.”

“After Mountain Greens closed, and there was no more farmers market, I wanted to do something to bring local food and vibrancy to the downtown,” Messer said.

Over the years some local farms have established their CSA (community supported agriculture) pickups at Tandem, and Messer has kept the summer market going for four years.

But last Thursday evening marked the end of the Night Market’s final season.

“If a group is interested in taking the torch, I’d be happy to pass it on,” Messer said.

Organizers of Bristol Friday in the Park hope to do just that — at least in part — and they’re looking for community input.

On Thursday, Aug. 29, they will meet again at Lawrence Memorial Library in the evening.

“We welcome more folks interested in the planning, design and execution to attend the meeting or join our email list to keep updated,” organizers said. “We also welcome helpful feedback, ideas and comments via email from the community on what they'd like to see and what they would attend.”

Bristol Friday in the Park is hoping to form partnerships with village businesses, local nonprofits, the Hub teen center, town Recreation Department, school groups, churches and local food trucks, organizers said.

For guidance they also plan to reach out to neighboring community groups that have experience launching similar events.

But “we’re not trying to match or copy other towns,” Burrell said. “We want this to have its own Bristol or 5-Town flavor.”

Burrell brings to the project significant experience of her own: she co-managed the Bristol Farmers Market for several years.

“Someone asked me to be a vendor one year, so I spent a summer selling my note cards,” she recalled. “I didn’t make much money, but I really loved doing it.”

While managing the market’s on-the-ground operations, Burrell and co-manager Erin Buckwalter saw how much time and effort such markets demand from the farmers themselves, and they’re trying to keep that in mind as they move forward with the new project.

Bristol Friday in the Park hopes to launch next year, one Friday evening a month from June to October.

What shape the event — or series of events — will finally take is up to the community itself.

For more information about the project, email bristolfridayinthepark@gmail.com.

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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