Ridgeway Farms owner Abby Ala helps Donna Hoyt select flowers at the Wednesday market in Soldotna. Vendors gather weekly at Soldotna Creek Park to sell their goods.
Photos by M. Scott Moon
It’s not quite time for the fresh produce one would expect at a farmer’s market, but the outdoor shopping season is in full swing in the Kenai-Soldotna area.
Josephine Mousette Rice of Summer Cabin Originals was at the Saturday Market at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center last Saturday afternoon.
“It’s worth going to. It’s a typical Saturday Market. This time of year it’s geared more toward the entrepreneurial crafters than the growers. It’s more of a visitors’ market than a farmers’ market,” Rice said.
Linda Reichert's syrups glow in the sun while waiting for a buyer.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
This is her first year at the market. Rice is a lifelong Alaskan of Metis (French-Indian) descent. Her paintings, on glass and other objects, is inspired by the traditional Metis art called flower bead work. Rice lives and works in Homer and shares her booth space with another Homer vendor: Lighted Forest Candles. She’s enjoying the opportunity to meet her customers in person, she said.
“I’ve started doing so much wholesaling that it kind of removes me from the people that actually come up here to see my homeland. It’s an adventure for me because I was born and raised here,” she said.
Rice said she believes this is a great way for visitors to get to know local artists and other vendors.
“It’s kind of an adventure for visitors to get a chance to stand around and talk to the entrepreneurs that work here at the fair. That’s maybe not an experience they can have if they go into a store where there’s customers lined up three deep at the counter,” Rice said.
“The vendors that go out and do these outdoor markets, maybe there’s more of a spirit of independence. It’s a way for them to work for themselves. That, to me, the independence and the creativity, is maybe a hallmark of the Alaskan personality.”
Joy Carew, who was minding the Carew family’s craft booth, said she enjoys the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones. The Carew booth is full of crafts that include pies and cakes, quilted items, fleece garments and blankets. They make the crafts over the winter and sell them in the summer.
She said the vendors at the Kenai Saturday Market look out for each other, minding each others’ booths if someone has to step away.
“The same vendors have been next to me all three years. We got these spots, and we kind of like them, and we just stay where we are,” Carew said.
She encouraged other people to participate.
“If you enjoy this kind of thing, if you like talking to people, even if there aren’t many sales some days, you’re going to see people that maybe you haven’t seen in a long time. They just happen by,” Carew said.
“After a while people become steady customers. Every weekend you see them drive up in front of your table. Here they come again, you know, you’ve got something that they really want. They may order a fresh apple cake and so you bring it with
their name on it. It’s just really fun, and we appreciate everybody that comes by. We just have a lot of good conversation.”
Alex Villa, owner and operator of Hotdogs a la Carte, stays extremely busy with the summer market season. He is at the Kenai Saturday Market every weekend with polish sausage, bratwurst, reindeer sausage and sauerkraut.
He and his wife also organized the Wednesday Market in Soldotna with support from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. The Wednesday Market is held at Soldotna Creek Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or so.
“This is our first year. We started out with about six of us, and now we have about 12. People are starting to hear about it, and it’s starting to grow,” Villa said.
He started his business in Anchorage, then moved to the Kenai Peninsula where he’s built a “cult following” of gourmet hot dog fans.
“I’ve been doing it for probably over 10 years. It’s been getting better and better every year,” Villa said. “That’s our life in the summer. We do all the fairs we can get to.”
Villa described the experience a visitor might have at any of the local outdoor markets or festivals this summer, saying, “First you get hit by the wonderful smell of the fried onions. And then after that, all the colorful tents, and just a variety of different gifts and Alaska grown vegetables, and Alaskan unique items, and some wonderful reindeer sausage that you can only find here.”
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For more information about the Kenai Saturday Market, which runs every Saturday through Sept. 8, call 283-1991. For more information about the Soldotna Wednesday Market, which runs every Wednesday through Sept. 26, call Annette Villa at 252-7264.
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