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Farmer’s market season ends after successful summer
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Aug 22, 2013 | 1399 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Thursday marked the last Sparks Farmer's Market for the 2013 season, and local residents were at a premium given the amount of smoke clouding the Rail City.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Thursday marked the last Sparks Farmer's Market for the 2013 season, and local residents were at a premium given the amount of smoke clouding the Rail City.
A bit of sadness showed through the eyes of Shirley Sponsler in Victorian Square as she sat beneath her information tent on the final day of the Sparks Farmer’s Market for this 2013 season. Thursday afternoon was cloaked in a hazy smoke-filled atmosphere, keeping many locals from venturing outdoors, but Sponsler knew the end of her busy summer was near when children returned to school and attendance slowly dwindled in downtown Sparks.

For 21 years, Sparks has been the host of the Farmer’s Market and Sponsler, the market’s president and organizer, has seen the evolution of the event from the driver’s seat each year. While she is no stranger to organizing farmer’s markets, Sponsler said taking the helm of the Sparks Farmer’s Market this year, as opposed to years past where she worked in tandem with the City of Sparks, was a success in large part because of trustworthy partners.

“It has run really smooth,” she said, “And I think a lot of the reason is I do get a lot of great support from the Nugget and the City. If I have any issues, they respond really well to our needs. The Nugget being involved with the cooking demonstrations and everything has really helped.”

In years past, complications arose from late-night crowds and exacerbated alcohol consumption leading Sponsler to wrangle the number of adult beverage vendors and cut it down considerably. Some layout changes, addition of a couple security guards throughout the evening and new-and-improved vendors helped Sponsler revive the event to bring more families out.

“We still have had nothing security wise that has been a problem so I am really proud of that,” she said. “We have had two summers in a row now where we have not had any incidents at the market that were problematic -- except the weather.

“We just want to get more people down here. We want to try to encourage more people to come down here. We have so many great farmers that are doing the market now and we didn’t ever plan to come down to this area (Victorian Plaza), but we have added vendors so that’s how this section sort of got created, because we got bigger than we thought we were going to be, which I am glad about.”

Between 60 and 70 vendors was the norm throughout the summer at the Sparks Farmer’s Market, a number Sponsler said she would like to see increased to between 90 and 100. Attractions such as the craft activity booth, where kids were able to participate in guided projects, was a “big hit” according to Sponsler, as were the live cooking demonstrations put on by John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Sponsler said new gourmet foods and unique vendors featured this year are something she will look to build on next year.

“It’s funny because people think it is a lot smaller, but honestly it really isn’t,” Sponsler said. “Even when we had 120 spaces, six or seven years ago, a lot of those places weren’t filled. There were sponsors or radio stations and things that were not market vendors. We have a few of those people out here this year, but we are not loaded with those things.

“We are less booths now, but we are booths that are more concentrated on the theme of the market. All the different foods we have now are the things that I want more of, more gourmet foods, more specialty foods, and unique things.”

Future tasks for Sponsler include finding more vendors willing and able to do demonstrations of their product during the evening market, which she said “brings a better interactive feature for the consumers.” She added that additions will be made to the child-friendly booths and she will attempt to incorporate more community organizations such as 4H and Future Farmers of America.

The reputation Sponsler has created with vendors allows them to speak freely if they are unhappy with something, and Sponsler said she feels the vendors this year were generally happy. She hopes her love for local farmers, foods and businesses will help boost attendance and vendors in the future.

“I love the farmer’s market and this market is very special because it is the oldest market in the state,” she said. “I just really believe we have to do this. We have to support farmers and learn more about them. I want more Nevada farmers and I am trying to figure out ways to get more Nevada farmers in the markets.”
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