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Farmers market helps bring Florence together

July 8, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Children chased giant soap bubbles across the grass and giddy-upped on free pony rides as their parents explored tables of produce at the Florence Mill Farmers Market.

The sweet smell of barbecue wafted through on the breeze.

The Grand Island Independent reports that in its ninth year, the market mixes the feelings of a county fair and a neighborhood block party. The market is small by most standards with about 30 vendors each week, said mill owner Linda Meigs.

“It’s not too big and not too small,” Meigs said. “It’s just right because you never feel crowded. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Just an angry mule’s kick from the Mormon Bridge, the 172-year-old mill that anchors the market has been a labor of love for the Meigs family. The mill was renovated as an artist’s studio by Meigs and her late husband, architect John Meigs. The market, which operates from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday from June through September, has become an iconic feature in the Florence neighborhood of north Omaha, Laurel Hamilton said.

“It’s a local event that brings the community together,” Hamilton said. “My kiddos love the pony rides and the honey (stand).”

As Hamilton spoke, she watched her two children laugh and chase huge soap bubbles created by Yolanda Bailey. Bailey and her adult daughter, Kirstin Bailey, sell their specially made bubble mixture at the market on the last Sunday of each month. Other Sundays they can be found on their acreage in Brainard tending their five acres of produce.

The women bill their business as Bailey’s Bubbles. They sell a half-gallon of the bubble mixture for $10. The younger Bailey said an idea for their special bubble wands came to her in a dream.

“I saw rings in a line on a string attached to a long stick that would make beautiful bubbles when I waved them over my head,” Kirstin said. “I knew that I’d get a whole bunch of bubbles and that’s exactly what happened.”

Another feature for the last Sunday of each month is the free pony rides. Meigs said she decided that the market would pay for the rides after the folks who offered pony rides weren’t making enough money.

“It was important to keep that feature,” she said. “I have (five) grandchildren, and I saw how much they love the ponies.”

Zach and Megan Lutz-Priefert brought their 1-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, to the market for her first pony ride. They also planned to bring home some sweet potato pie.

“This is nicer than the big farmers markets because you can actually spend time at the booths and not feel rushed,” Megan Lutz-Priefert said. “It’s just set up really cool.”

Every week, market visitors are treated to a mix of country and pop songs played and sung by Dale Thornton from 10 a.m. to noon. He is followed by the “Old-time Bluegrass Circle Jam” in the afternoons.

Marketgoers can also count on delicious prepared foods within earshot of the music. Lawrence Gatewood, 81, of TLC Down Home Food hauls his smoker out every Sunday to produce everything from pulled pork and ribs to sausage. He also sells his products every Friday at the Gifford Park neighborhood market from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Everything we make, we guarantee,” Gatewood said with wide grin. “I’ve been doing this for 21 years. You really should try my homemade polish sausage because everyone loves it.”

Another must-stop, Meigs said, is Decadent Cakes operated by Chris and Pam White. The sisters make cakes, pies and every sweet item you can imagine from scratch. They are downright insistent that visitors taste-test any of their products.

“Yes, it is all from scratch. Every part of it,” Chris said. “Tell people to look for us in our tie-dyed shirts. They can’t miss us!”


Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com

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