The Saturday morning farmers market in Rolla will have a new name and new location starting Saturday.

The Saturday morning farmers market in Rolla will have a new name and new location starting Saturday.

“We’re calling it the Saturday Farmers Market,” said Debra Willhite, organizer of what had been known for several years, at least informally, as the Big Lots farmers market because of is location in the Big Lots parking lot on Highway 63 south.

The new location will be on Al West Nissan property, North Highway 63. The market will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until the fall.
The move was made necessary by Big Lots management’s request that the vendors find a new location.

“We just outgrew it,” Willhite said of the Big Lots location. “They wanted us to move last year, but they worked with us and allowed us to have one more year.”

A few vendors have set up at Big Lots since March, but they’ll move to the Al West Nissan site Saturday.

“Al West Nissan has called us three years, so when they called this year, we decided to go ahead and move,” Willhite said.

What that location offers is more room — “This place is twice the size of where we were,” Willhite said -- better parking and greater safety. Vendors will also set up shot on turf rather than pavement, so the atmosphere will be more natural.

The drawback is visibility.

“I don’t think we’ll be visible either from Highway 63 or I-44,” Willhite acknowledged, but she added that Al West Nissan management is working with the market to promote it with banners and mentions on company billboards.

Willhite said she’s hoping people who go shopping at Lowe’s and Kohl’s on Saturday morning drive on just a little further to the Al West Nissan driveway and enter. “The road wyes; you turn to the right to get to the farmers market,” she said.

There will be no charge to vendors, who will sell produce and plants grown in Missouri, as well as crafts and baked goods.

Willhite said she has been meeting with about 20 vendors. At this time of year they’re offering starter plants, primarily.

The Tuesday morning Downtown Farmers Market will start on April 17 and the hours will be 7 a.m. to noon. It will continue through September and is open to vendors with plants, produce, crafts and baked goods from Phelps and surrounding counties.

The market will stay downtown but it will be covered this year with a tent, or the city and business officials prefer to call it, a shade structure.

“It’s going up in the next two weeks,” City Administrator John Butz said of the shade structure.

The downtown farmers market will start on Tuesday, May 1, so the city wants to have the structure up before then.

“There has been a little bit of discussion abut where it should be,” Butz said.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Caron met with the Rolla Area Downtown Business Association Wednesday morning to consider the options.
The choices included sites in the lot at Eighth and Oak streets, near the Bandshell. Another option is in the lower lot at the corner of Ninth and Oak streets, next to the overpass. That’s likely where it will be.

“There’s value in having shade by the Bandshell, but there’s more flexibility in having it in the lower lot,” Butz said. The shade will be available for other uses, such as craft fairs and family reunions.

There will not be a Saturday downtown farmers market attempted this year. It failed to generate interest last year.

“It’s a great idea but it is not practical,” Butz said.

Traffic is obviously greater on Highway 63, he said, so it is understandable why the growers and vendors would go there.

“They’re always welcome to come and take advantage of the shade structure if they choose,’ Butz said.

Asked if there would be a charge to use it, Butz said, “I don’t think so.”

Although he has been encouraging Caron to find ways for user fees to be charged on such facilities as the Bandshell, to recoup the cost for electricity, there’s really no operating costs for the shade structure. it was purchased with a grant.

“We’re not attempting to do that.”

The farmers market managers will continue to levy a $2 weekly fee on vendors, which is used for promotion. Reserving a spot in the shade structure could have a surcharge.

“That's up to the organizers,” Butz said.

St. James will also have a farmers market starting Friday. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Friday and Saturday at the St. James tourist information center. It will also be open from 1-4 p.m. Sunday and 4-8 p.m. Tuesday. There is a charge to be vendor in the St. James farmers market. Call the tourist information center for more information.