provided to The Santiva Chronicle
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce welcomed the Sanibel Farmers Market back to the island scene on Sunday, Jan. 22, with a ribbon-cutting, confetti cannon, and ceremonial ringing of the cowbell. The occasion also celebrated 15 years the market has been running on Sanibel – previously at city hall, now temporarily moved to the parking lot at Jerry’s Foods.
“What a joyful occasion, so meaningful to islanders and also visitors as we continually move toward normalcy here on the islands,” said John Lai, chamber president and CEO. “I certainly wasn’t the only one excited to be mingling with the community in a way we’d been doing for 15 years.”
The Sanibel market started in 2008 with 15 vendors, the first of nine markets developed by Local Roots principals and islanders Jean Baer and Betsy Ventura.
“Back in those days, we would ring a cowbell specially painted by artist Leoma Lovegrove to signal the opening of the market every Sunday morning in season,” said Baer. “We thought we’d bring back the tradition this year to celebrate our 15th year opening in October. Of course, that got delayed, but we couldn’t be more thrilled to be back open this month, thanks to Jerry’s and the enthusiastic support of the community.”
Opening day this year happened Jan. 15, with Mayor Holly Smith sounding the Lovegrove bell. Ringing in the new at the ribbon cutting, Sanibel artist Rachel Pierce painted a new bell and personally clanged it that morning.
Although the market necessarily shrank in size from up to 60 vendors pre-hurricane to about 25 today, the market attracted around 350 people including, Baer said, tourists for whom the market has also become a well-loved tradition. Most of the vendors hoped to come back, but given the space, she and Ventura picked products they felt islanders needed most right now, such as prepared meals and fresh produce. Some of the vendors have been with them since the beginning.
SC photos by Shannen Hayes
The Sanibel market will run through May this year, as usual. Baer hopes to return to their original venue eventually, but for now is awaiting city approval.
She and Ventura have altogether reopened six of their nine markets, including one at the Sanibel Outlets parking lot. It also attracts a lot of islanders because it brings in a different set of vendors, including Spoondrift Island Bowls, which closed its shop at Bailey’s Shopping Center after the hurricane.
They thank the chamber for spreading the word about their market reopening. “The chamber is the largest distributor of our brochures and information,” said Baer. “I’m so grateful to John [Lai], who approached me on our opening day and suggested we do the ribbon cutting. He did everything possible to make it a festive occasion.”