DERRY — Market days are back on Broadway.
Wednesday afternoon was the official season kickoff for the third annual Derry Homegrown Farm and Artisan Market, with vendors lining up on a grassy downtown plot across from Sabatino's North Italian restaurant to sell produce, baked goods, wines, craft beers, soaps, sauces, pastries and much more.
Market traffic was fast and steady at 3 p.m. when the bell rang to start the new season.
Opening day festivities featured music by Mike Morris and his family band, Silly Solutions balloon art, and Salem-based colored pencil artist Tina Gagnon demonstrating her talents in the Artist Spotlight Tent.
Silly Solutions traditionally creates a huge balloon figure that greets people as the market opens for a new year. Last year, it was a life-sized carrot and this year, a tractor.
Market committee member Paul Freitas wore the balloon tractor as a sandwich-styled marketing tool, walking up and down the sidewalk as the market opened, and counting visitors as they stopped by. The market got off to a good start. In only 10 minutes, Freitas had counted 150 people.
"We had people lined up for stuff as soon as we rang our bell," he said.
Derry's market was reorganized several years ago by a new group of supporters, making the downtown event more of a community-oriented festival, complete with musicians, local artisan demonstrations and organizations offering information on history, and other efforts in town.
Dreama Cady of Country Dreams farms in Mason, has come to Derry markets since the very beginning. She was selling fresh tomato plants, basil and other herbs and early season lettuce.
The spring planting season got off to a slow start due to rainy conditions, she said, but she hopes the produce will catch up and grow well.
Other market regulars from past seasons include Abbot Hill Creamery, Debbie D’s, Victory Aquaponics, and Valicenti Pasta to name a few, selling pickles, oils, jams, cheese, natural soaps, chocolates, fresh produce, sauces, wine, beer, meats and pastries.
Longtime Londonderry residents Jason and Margot Phelps, proprietors of Ancient Fire Mead & Cider, are returning to the market for a second time.
"We joined the market in 2018 a few short months after we opened," owner/meadmaker Jason Phelps said. "The market provided an amazing opportunity to engage with the community and introduce them to our meads and ciders."
Phelps added that first season was a great experience as new business owners.
"We are so excited to return," he said.
Many who have tried Phelps' product at the Derry market have become regular customers at their Manchester taproom on South Willow Street in Manchester.
"As a small craft business having the ability to share what we do at a welcoming community event like the market is such a huge opportunity," Phelps said. "We are very thankful to the market volunteers who make it happen."
Derry Town Councilor Richard Tripp said having a downtown market is a positive way to show people what the community is all about.
"It's a great way to get people to stop and walk around and see what Derry has to offer," Tripp said.
Market committee members are proud of how the annual event has come together every year with a wide variety of vendors and community spirit on display. The market was honored with an Editor’s Choice Award by Yankee Magazine for being a top farmer’s market in the state.
"I think the buzz this year is bigger and better than other years," said Terri Pastore, adding people are sharing information about the market on social media to help get the word out.
Alexandra Hadik of Chester came to the market for Cheryl Holbert's artisan breads. Holbert operates Nomad Bakery and is a regular market fixture each summer.
"This is where I run to," Hadik said. "My thing is bread, I will forego pasta, potatoes, bread is it. I grew up on European bread."
Jillian Thiele serves on the market board of directors and said she will do much of her weekly shopping there every Wednesday.
It's a good mix, Thiele said, of all things community.
"It's more than the food, it's an event," she said. "All the different groups come, with such a sampling of Derry all in one place. It's the community aspect of it."
Derry Homegrown Farm and Artisan Market
When: Every Wednesday, 3 to 7 p.m. through September.
Where: Broadway in Derry, across from Sabatino's North Italian restaurant