He needed his favorite cinnamon rolls and his Akita puppy needed more socialization.
So Rex Kent strolled through the downtown Columbus Farmers Market with 4-month-old, leashed Rango stopping children and entire families in their tracks for friendly petting, pats and general fawning.
By the time Kent reached the Sogno Della Terra booth with its specialty baked goods in the Cummins Inc. parking lot on Brown Street, both he and his buddy were satisfied.
“He’s still young and impressionable,” Kent said with a smile toward the obedient pooch.
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The local resident was among a healthy crowd that organizers pegged at an estimated 2,000-plus people in early June of the area’s biggest farmers market with 92 vendors.
Across town at the Columbus City Summer Market in the FairOaks Mall front parking lot, shoppers have been fewer. But founder and coordinator Sande Hummel has a loyal customer base. About 150 people, many of them older people with limited mobility, visited Saturday.
“It’s always nice to see familiar faces,” Hummel said.
She will add substantially to her seven vendors, including farmers who told her that heavy spring rains until recently have hurt their produce they planned to have to sell and therefore have kept them away thus far. Produce expected to be added this weekend includes peppers and ocra, with perhaps 10 vendors total, Hummel said.
At the newest such event, the Farmers Market of Hope on June 2, shoppers seemed slow arriving. But by 90 minutes into the gathering with nine vendors, about 60 people milled among a classic car cruise-in, a tractor cruise-in, and the funky tunes of Mark Gravely and Top Hat Blues Revue.
Farmers market committee member Susan Fye looked at the visitors on the heavily shaded town square and proclaimed a measure of success for the first of such gatherings each first Friday of the month through October.
“This is a pretty good start,” Fye said, adding later that the total attendance was about 100 people, double last year’s opening count. “And we don’t even have a lot of our produce yet.”
In the great outdoors, area farmers markets have put down enough roots in the past few years to entrench themselves as friendly, community outings. It’s also good business.
“We keep thousands of dollars of shoppers’ money right here in Columbus,” said Becky Church of the Columbus Farmers Market.
It does so while meeting a public demand for items ranging from organic beef to flowers to folk art.
Before 11 a.m. on a recent Saturday, one vendor already had sold out of crepes. Another sold out of barbecue.
Downtown market shoppers in turn were sold on the Banister Family Bluegrass Band, which played there recently.
“We call them our house band,” Church said of the foursome that performs almost monthly at the gathering.
At one point, about 40 people sat under a covering near the band listening to tunes such as “I Saw the Light.” Minutes later, as the group jumped into a rollicking version of “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” one woman walked through the booth area singing along as she walked.
“If you get too hot, don’t forget that our vendors can take care of you,” Bannister Family guitarist Denise Kocur said.
Two booths away, Amanda Perkins of August Rising Acres and Morning Glory Locavore sold chilled smoothies amid produce.
“As it gets a little warmer, we do sell a few more smoothies,” Perkins said. “And, of course, we’d like it to be warm enough to sell smoothies, but not so hot that it will affect our produce.”
People such as Charlie Day come mostly for produce such as vegetables or strawberries. He carried a bag of tomatoes as he left the market. But wife Lisa acknowledged that the market often holds a different draw for her.
She comes to see the dogs — pets such as Rango and others, representing just another element of variety amid the still-budding summer farmers markets.
In Hope, where organizers are allowing vendors free booth space, they are seeing a few shoppers come eager to buy.
Jenny Wallace of Wallace Farms sold six quarts of strawberries to one customer just as the event began.
“I think this can grow,” Wallace said of the Hope market. “But a lot of the big vendors are busy gearing up for the bigger Saturday markets.”
At the FairOaks market, Graziella Bush, a member of the original Columbus Farmers Market that first gathered inside the original Commons in 1997, sold Italian lettuce and other favorites that her customers such as Christina Bailey ask for by name.
“She has an unusual variety of produce you don’t find anywhere else,” Bailey said.
When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Saturday through Sept. 16, rain or shine.
Where: In the Cummins Inc. parking lot on Brown Street between Fifth and Eighth streets.
Vendors: 92 vendors, including produce, plants, handmade items such as arts and crafts, flowers and more.
Music: Live acts weekly.
Ready-to-eat food: Plenty available.
Parking: In the Cummins Inc. lot and at Mill Race Park on Fifth Street.
When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 16.
Where: Parking lot of FairOaks Mall at 2380 25th St., facing 25th Street.
Vendors: Hoping to have as many as 15 by Saturday. Will include produce, plants, flowers, locally produced art, sauces and jellies, and more.
Ready-to-eat food: A variety available, from pulled pork sandwiches to gluten-free baked goods.
Parking: Next to the market layout in the mall parking lot.
Information: The Facebook page at Columbus City Summer Farmers Market.
When: 5 to 8 p.m. the first Friday of each month through October (July 7, Aug. 4, Sept. 1 and Oct. 6)
Where: Historic Hope Town Square on Main Street.
Vendors: Could vary substantially. The opening summer market featured nine vendors with produce, baked goods, ready-to-eat food and other items.
Parking: All around the town square.
Information: The Facebook page at Farmers Market of Hope.