Montgomery County News
February 3, 2013
Planning continues by Montgomery County members of ARCO (Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas) as they work to organize a model outdoor market. Group participants seek community input from stakeholders to help develop monthly activities designed to bring tourists to the area and help local craftsmen and producers gain new markets for products.
According to Pat Smith, who serves on the planning committee as well as being involved in several other community projects, one of the first events to be undertaken will be an Open Air Market. "This will be more than just a farmer's market. It will be a place for the entire family to gather and experience a variety of activities."
Smith added that the focus of the events—initially scheduled for one Saturday each month—will be healthy living. "We want to brand Montgomery County as a healthy destination for visitors."
"In addition to local farmer and gardener produce stands, the organizers envision, "there will be cooking stations using locally grown food. Those who attend the market will be able to gather recipes from vendors as well as tips on food preparation."
As the monthly event matures, organizers hope to increase participation by seeking specialty craftsmen who will come to the open air market and actually show how they produce products, Smith said. "We have local people who can show us how they make cheese, bake cookies and cakes, can jellies and prepare honey for sale. We are going to stress vendors from the three-county ARCO area which includes Polk, Scott and Montgomery counties."
Planners are looking for a sponsor who will take ownership of the ongoing project. Representatives met with a portion of the chamber board in January. Smith said, "some of the chamber board members were enthusiastic and agreed conceptually that the Chamber of Commerce would be the best group to manage the open air market on an ongoing basis. But, they were not prepared to formally agree to that until they hired a new director and verify that their event insurance would cover additional events."
In several brainstorming sessions ideas have been presented that would include trades and crafts such as knife sharpening, crystal identification and the proper way to clean them, wheat grinding, sorghum making, soap making and wood carving.
It was also suggested that information be available for activities that might attract repeat visits by those who attend the open air market. "Many of our visitors do not realize the wide variety of activities the area has to offer," Smith added. " We plan to have members of the Traildogs (a local group credited with building nearly 50 miles of hiking trails in Montgomery and Garland counties) on hand to tell hikers and bikers about area trails. We expect they will have maps on hand to show visitors where the trail is located, and perhaps even conduct hikes if interest warrants."
Activities will be planned for all age groups with the potential for musical jam sessions, 3 on 3 basketball tournaments and smash ball. There are basketball goals at Forest Jones Park and a tennis court that could be used for various events.
Another suggestion to help develop publicity could be a guided trip for photographers and planned excursions on various biking/hiking trails in the area.
Representatives of the planning committee have met with the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce and Mount Ida City Council. The group also plans to present the Open Air Market idea to Quorum Court members in an effort to get them up to speed as well.
Plans are being finalized for a February 22 group visit to Nashville to talk with organizers and see firsthand that area's outdoor market. The trip is scheduled for later in February. More information will be provided at a later date.
Smith concluded, "We want to time these events to tie in with all aspects of the area. We can make a difference for our local communities."
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Montgomery County: ARCO Plans to include open air market
Montgomery County News