There’s a party-like atmosphere to Heritage Plaza each Wednesday of the summer in Mountain Village. Market on the Plaza is a lively affair and despite lowering clouds, it’s humming with activity. Rows of white tents encircle the cobble-stoned plaza and people of all ages mill about, some laden with bags of treats like fresh cheese, brightly colored flowers, hand-crafted earrings or produce. Local guitarist Tyler Simmons’ music fills the air and a cooking demonstration with Kendra’s Kitchen is underway. The line for aromatic Pad Thai indicates it’s lunchtime.
Markets are nothing new — they’ve been in existence since humans began trading — but towns that host them put their own, unique stamp on the vibe. They reflect the culture and values of a community, not to mention offering a diverse range of goods sourced from the region.
Zoe Dohnal is Mountain Village’s business development and sustainability manager. She sees Market on the Plaza as a way to bring a sense of community and vitality to Mountain Village.
“In any municipality, there is a focus on helping improve the quality of life for the constituents,” she said. “This type of market brings a sense of community and vitality by offering residents and tourists alike a place to peruse produce and wares that are unique to our area, and a family atmosphere to share on a beautiful summer day. The market offers people a chance to relax and explore all the offerings our town has to offer.”
Colleen Thompson is busy at her booth with customers inquiring about the earrings, rings, necklaces and other hand-crafted jewelry items that glitter on the tables. This is her third year as a vendor and she said it’s her favorite market. And she’s noticed an uptick in her business.
“It’s definitely getting busier,” Thompson said. “The stuff that Mountain Village is doing is getting a lot more people up here. It’s working.”
Edit Aquarian of Breen Mesa Farm Creamery is a new vendor this year. She doles out samples of her silken chevre made from her pasture- and seed-fed goats. She said she’s sold out every market so far. The success of her recently-certified creamery has led her to start a list to see if customers would want her to come up to Telluride with her product after the market season comes to an end.
“Oh yeah, it’s been successful,” Aquarian said of her experience at Market on the Plaza. “It’s a unique product. We’ve had people say it’s the best cheese they’ve ever had.”
Dohnal said that offering an experience that’s more than just vendors is key to enticing people to visit the market.
“We work hard to provide a full and bustling market every Wednesday, making sure that every booth space is filled,” Dohnal said. “On top of it all, we want to ensure visitors have a spectacular experience, so we provide a wide selection of entertainment ranging from live music to face painting, body marbling, balloon animals, cooking demonstrations, and even petting a live alpaca!”
This year’s market, she said has almost double the amount of vendors, having increased from 28 to more than 40, with 55 vendors setting up shop from one week to the next. They offer a “diverse selection of local produce, jewelry and other homemade goods,” she said.
Market on the Plaza is also the recipient of a rebrand, with a new look and a fresh slogan. Social media campaigns, newspaper ads, emails, banners and postering all went into the marketing drive to showcase the market.
“I must say that the best advertisement has been word of mouth,” Dohnal said. “People have noticed a difference in this years market and are encouraging others to come and enjoy.”
The new slogan — Local Made. Local Grown. Local Loved — came as a result of a contest hosted by Mountain Village. Allison Stephenson’s submission was chosen from over 100 entries and her coveted prize is a Fresh Food Hub CSA.
“We felt this defined our market perfectly,” Dohnal said.
The next few markets are filled with not only the dizzying array of vendors, but also music from Tyler Simmons (Aug. 14) and Alex Paul (Aug. 21 and 28) from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Body marbling is offered by Dream Wandz, each of the market’s final three Wednesdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Kendra’s Kitchen does cooking demonstrations throughout each market, but for the Aug. 14 market, the will be a live taping by TellurideTV with Patrick Laguens, Wine Geek Food Freak, from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 14 and 21, pet and feed an alpaca, guided by Mary Reed and Syachowski Alpacas between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Looking ahead, Dohnal said she is excited to expand on the market’s offerings so as to exceed visitor expectations.
“ I can’t wait to see the entertainment we will have scheduled, and an even wider selections of goods,” she said. “We also plan on partnering with TriCounty Network’s Cooking Matters program as they demonstrate how to shop and cook from the local offerings at the market.”.
And about that line for Pad Thai. Is it ever short?
“Ha, no! And next year we hope to have move food options, and vending carts for people to choose from and enjoy.”
Market on the Plaza is every Wednesday through Aug. 28 in Mountain Village at Heritage Plaza from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.