Columbus Farmers Market entertainment features music planted amid a garden of variety

Forget telling Andy Saurer that the Columbus Farmers Market is just for everything from apples to asparagus. Goodness knows he spent enough years hawking cucumbers and watermelons at his family’s roadside stand in Azalia to understand gainful growing.

But today he sells a two-hour groove planted squarely amid the produce and petunias. His local group, Jazz Me Baby, reaches the youngsters as much as anyone on sunny weekend Saturday mornings. He’s among a lineup of musicians forming the live soundtrack, if you will, of the market that attracted an estimated 1,500 people weekly last season. It runs from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 17 behind Columbus City Hall along First Street.

“The little kids really enjoy it,” said the upright bass player who has performed with numerous ensembles. “On the Latin jazz that we do, we’ll give them shakers to play.”

So they also can shake shake shake. Shake shake shake. Shake their booty, as the disco anthem once implored.

And they unabashedly do precisely that, in front of God, country and whatever market mavens may be milling around. Saurer will tell you these pint-sized attendees wouldn’t dream of withering in the sun like a dried-up flower. That includes when Saurer and his mates slip into Dizzy Gillespie or Count Basie.

Through the years at the market, members of the Banister Family Bluegrass Band would wear smiles as wide and arching as a melon slice when passersby would slow just enough to execute a quick two-step or a boogieing breakdown en route to a nearby merchant’s booth. And therein lies much of the beauty of market minstrels.

Jacob Hendricks, who oversees the market for the Columbus Department of Parks and Recreation, mentioned that live music is integral to the market’s draw.

“For us, we truly want the market to be the place to be on Saturday morning,” Hendricks said. “So, obviously, we want iT to be a place where people can easily come in and get their fresh, local produce. But we also want it to be a great gathering spot.

“We want them to be able to get a cup of coffee, see some friends, walk around and enjoy the summer weather. And we have found that the entertainment becomes a huge part of all of that. It really helps bring people together.”

He added that organizers do their best to bring back several favorites each spring and summer, along with newer artists to the area.

“We try to keep things kind of fresh,” he said, ignoring the accidental market pun.

The local Highway 46 Band is among that freshness. It will perform its first such gig Saturday at the gathering. Guitarist Lynn Martin, who moved to Columbus three years ago, and his mates plan a set of older country/Southern rock from acts such as The Eagles, traditional bluegrass from performers such as Bill Monroe and old-time rock ‘n’ roll from artists such as The Allman Brothers Band. Like Saurer, he looks forward to engaging everyone from children to kids-at-heart.

He has done the same with his own grandchildren.

“I would want them to know that, one day, they can possibly get up there and do this, too,” Martin said. “Kids learn so young.”

All things considered, Saurer will tell you that produce-related markets are important for more than mere eating. His family’s roadside stand helped him earn enough money as a youth to buy his first instrument — a trumpet from Webber’s House of Music in Columbus. All these years later, he still sometimes plays it.

“I fell in love with it,” Saurer said.

And therein lies a twisting tale of the market’s added harvest.