OLYMPIA - "Welcome Back - Happy to see all the faces."
That was the message greeting patrons of Dingey’s Puget Sound Cuisine as the Olympia Farmers Market opened Thursday, a sure South Sound sign that spring is here.
Vendors and customers were in a festive mood, not willing to let the rain and cold wind deter them.
Keely Janway, the mother of three young boys, made a point to bring 6-month-old Ben to his first market to take in the sights and sounds of opening day.
“I love to come down here and buy starts for my garden, and I love the chowder, too,” she said.
“I’ve been ready for another year for a long time,” balloon figure-maker Jim Jacobs said. “I’ve been doing balloons at the market for 21 years. Girls like flowers and boys likes swords and dinosaurs.”
As the weather warms and the growing season matures, more of the market’s 116 vendors – down one from last year’s total because of a retirement – will fill their stands with fresh vegetables, flowers and starts for the backyard gardener.
“We’re several weeks away from much fresh-grown produce,” said Nisqually Valley organic farmer Jan Pigman. “Our first planting of spinach just sprouted out in the field.”
Still, Pigman did a brisk business Thursday selling rhubarb, kale, leeks, herbs, spinach and artichokes grown either outside or in the farm’s hoop house.
“We’ll bring some more on Saturday,” she said.
At the Blue Heron Bakery stand, Michaela Snowmassara doled out fresh breads and pastries under a thermometer that read 49 degrees.
Unlike the farmers, the bakeries aren’t weather-dependent.
“Year-round, we get the same results,” Snowmassara said.
The 2010 market, which will last until Christmas, officially opened at 10 a.m. sharp when Rainier Ottavelli, 3-year-old son of Olympia City Councilman Craig Ottavelli, enthusiastically rang the market bell.
But many of the market restaurants were doing brisk business well before 10 a.m.
“We missed you this winter,” Holly Porter said to Dingey’s proprietors Craig and Teresa Ricklick. “Life’s just not the same without Dingey’s crab cakes.”
Last year, the market registered about 500,000 visits and $5 million in gross revenue, mirroring the numbers from 2008 and showing the market is recession proof, market manager Charlie Haney said.
There are no major changes in store this year for the market, which is in its 35th year, she said.
“The farmers market is the jewel of our community,” Councilman Ottavelli said.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444