Friday, December 01, 2023

Hot Springs market exemplifies small-town America

| August 3, 2022 12:00 AM

Norman Rockwell, the artist who often captured small-town, country living in his magazine adorning photographs, would have loved the Hot Springs Farmers Market.

It is, quite simply, small town America in the flesh.

A small town city park lined with spacious shade trees, wide open lawn space with sprinklers for the kids and “adult kids” looking to beat the heat on a scorching Montana summer day.

And, the star(s) of the show, local folks selling their wares, everything from farm fresh eggs to herbs and a wide variety of arts and crafts type products.

Rockwell would have found a scene ready for the next cover of Life magazine in full bloom at the Hot Springs town park.

In its first year of operation since the Pandemic, the market is the result of group of six people getting together to find an activity that would bring local folks together and hopefully attract summertime tourists who visit the area’s hot springs and campgrounds.

“This is the first year for this market in a couple years,” said co-organizer LaDonna Vollmer, a resident of the small spa/resort town. “We had six people come together hoping to provide an outlet for local folks to gather and a farmer’s market seemed like a great idea”.

As a result, the newly created farmers market set up tents and tables in the town park beginning June 1. They are open for business every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon or “1 p.m.-ish” according to Vollmer, and will meet every Saturday through September. Plans are in the works to create an indoor version of the market on a once-a-month, Saturday mornings schedule in the local Grange.

“After the past two years (with co-vid related slowdowns and closures) people were so hungry to get out and do things,” she said. “Local folks seem to really like it, hopefully we’re here for good”.

Vendors who usually number in the teens, pay just $5 for a spot to sell their wares. One such vendor is Laurie Cowhig, a Camas Prairie area farmer who sells farm fresh eggs, including several different kinds of chicken eggs and also duck eggs.

“These farm fresh products are so much better than the store bought kind,” she said. “This is a good place to come and be part of this gathering”.

And on busy summer days, the many tourists who travel through Hot Springs often pull over and browse through the many products for sale.

“We saw this cool little park and the people gathering there and we had to stop,” said Oklahoma tourist Deborah Parks. “Everyone seems so friendly here and the scene with the shade trees is just amazing”.

And despite forest fire smoke looming on the horizon and a summer sun getting warmer by the hour, locals and tourists alike took time to seek refuge in the shade and do a little small town shopping.

“This is what we like about America,” Parks said. “The cities are one thing, but getting off the main roads and driving through towns like this are what we like doing”.

The laughter of a group of kids running through a lawn sprinkler nearby while also blowing soap bubbles said it all. And that was backed up by a local vendor.

“People were looking for a way to get back (from the past two years)”, he said. “It’s also hard to find fresh foods these days. People want to drink fresh goat’s milk and eat fresh cheese like we sell. Once folks try these fresh foods they can’t go back to what is often sold in the stores. And maybe best of all, there is a good community spirit here and it’s good to bring people back together.”

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