Reimagined outdoor market event draws hundreds to downtown West Point

 

Mark and Marilda O'Bryant, left, sell a pumpkin to Kalin Tolliver, far right, and her mother, Mattie, at the

Mark and Marilda O'Bryant, left, sell a pumpkin to Kalin Tolliver, far right, and her mother, Mattie, at the "Art in the Parking Lot" outdoor market in downtown West Point on Saturday. The O'Bryants run Double D Farms on the outskirts of West Point and usually sell produce at the city's farmers' market, which was limited to June and July this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

Cros Hathcock, center, and Mason Morton, both 2, examine the decorated gourds on display Saturday at the

Cros Hathcock, center, and Mason Morton, both 2, examine the decorated gourds on display Saturday at the "Art in the Parking Lot" outdoor market in West Point, under the supervision of Cros' mother, Amanda Hathcock, right, and Mason's grandmother Tammy Farr, second from left. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market was the first show of the year for West Point resident Betty Sparrow, left, who paints and decorates all the gourds and donates some of the sales proceeds to cancer research.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

Curtis Bilbo, right, drives a tractor pulling a makeshift train through a parking lot near West Point City Park on Saturday. The train was a socially distant substitute for the hayride usually offered at West Point's annual Makin' Hay Day, which combined with the city's farmers' market and the annual Prairie Arts Festival to create

Curtis Bilbo, right, drives a tractor pulling a makeshift train through a parking lot near West Point City Park on Saturday. The train was a socially distant substitute for the hayride usually offered at West Point's annual Makin' Hay Day, which combined with the city's farmers' market and the annual Prairie Arts Festival to create "Art in the Parking Lot," event organizer Lisa Klutts said.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson, center, and his daughter Suzanne Pasisis, left, buy baked goods from Hollie Unruh, right, at the

West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson, center, and his daughter Suzanne Pasisis, left, buy baked goods from Hollie Unruh, right, at the "Art in the Parking Lot" outdoor market Saturday morning in West Point. Unruh is a regular vendor at the city's farmers' market, which was limited to June and July this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Saturday's event combined the market with the annual Makin' Hay Day and Prairie Arts Festival, and two dozen vendors displayed their art and food products from socially distanced booths on Commerce Street.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

West Point residents Donna Melcher, center, and her daughter Marlee, right, peruse paper crafts on sale Saturday at the

West Point residents Donna Melcher, center, and her daughter Marlee, right, peruse paper crafts on sale Saturday at the "Art in the Parking Lot" outdoor market, held in place of the annual Makin' Hay Day downtown. Mike and Anita Montgomery, from left, of Columbus, have had few opportunities this year to sell their creations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled arts festivals in the area, including the Prairie Arts Festival in West Point and the Market Street Festival in Columbus.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

Paul Brady, of Starkville, adjusts his microphone between songs at the

Paul Brady, of Starkville, adjusts his microphone between songs at the "Art in the Parking Lot" outdoor market Saturday morning on Commerce Street in West Point. Brady has performed at the city's farmers' market before, and Saturday's event included vendors from the farmers' market, the annual Makin' Hay Day and the annual Prairie Arts Festival.
Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff

 

Lisa Klutts

Lisa Klutts

 

 

Tess Vrbin

 

 

WEST POINT -- About 200 people, most wearing protective face coverings, had come to the outdoor market on Commerce Street by 10:30 a.m. Saturday, West Point-Clay County Growth Alliance Director Lisa Klutts estimated.

 

Two dozen vendors set up booths to sell artwork, canned goods and baked goods in an event called "Art in the Parking Lot," on the block between Broad Street and Jordan Avenue. Families rode a makeshift train pulled by a tractor through the streets nearby.

 

Residents and vendors alike said they appreciated the opportunity to get out of the house and support the city after the COVID-19 pandemic had kept people mostly indoors for the past seven months and forced the city to cancel or limit other events.

 

 

"I'm just glad they figured out a way to do it since they canceled Prairie Arts," West Point resident Donna Melcher said.

 

West Point's annual Prairie Arts Festival would have happened in May but was canceled due to the pandemic, as were the Market Street Festival in Columbus and the Cotton District Arts Festival in Starkville. Additionally, the city's farmers' market was limited to June and July.

 

Klutts is the Prairie Arts Festival community development director, and she said the arts festival and the farmers' market combined with the annual "Makin' Hay Day" to form Art in the Parking Lot.

 

Makin' Hay Day usually includes games and a hayride in the West Point City Park, but both were inadvisable due to social distancing protocols. The train provided a similar activity to the hayride but kept people at a safe distance apart, Klutts said.

 

The event also featured a hand sanitizing booth and live music from guitarist Paul Brady of Starkville.

 

West Point's parks are still closed, and moving all the activity to the street provided more space for more vendors, since Makin' Hay Day usually only has a dozen, Klutts said. She did not advertise for vendors, but so many were interested in participating that she had to turn some away for the first time ever, she said.

 

"I had to limit it to (vendors) from the farmers' market and a few from Prairie Arts who reached out," she said.

 

Two previous Prairie Arts vendors, Betty Sparrow and Anita Montgomery, said they were grateful when Art in the Parking Lot arose as an opportunity for business and socializing. Sparrow, of West Point, paints and decorates gourds and donates some of the sales proceeds to cancer research.

 

"We hadn't had a show all year," she said. "This gave us an opportunity to go out and see people, and to sell some (gourds) and actually support West Point."

 

Montgomery and her husband, Mike, live in Columbus and usually make jewelry and scarves, but they ventured into paper crafting this year. She agreed with Sparrow that this year has been a challenge for those in the arts business, and she called Art in the Parking Lot "a jubilation" and "a real blessing" after May's Market Street Festival was canceled in her hometown.

 

"(We'd been) trying to work through other media, like Etsy, Instagram, Facebook and word of mouth to try to find opportunities," Montgomery said.

 

Klutts said Makin' Hay Day usually brings the community together, and such events are especially important this year in whatever format they can be salvaged.

 

"People want somewhere to get out and shop and be outdoors ... where they also feel comfortable and safe," she said.

 

 

 

 

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