Lacey Community Market focuses on free fun for families

Hundreds of people attended the Lacey Community Market’s Family Fun Day — including “Reptile Man” Scott Petersen, who dazzled kids with an assortment of poisonous snakes including the deadly Gaboon viper, Indian cobra and diamondback rattler.

One grade-school boy even volunteered for a hug from a boa constrictor, and made the crowd laugh when the snake slithered up his shirt.

“I’m really pleased to see so many families here with small children,” said Sharon Kagy, market manager. “That’s what we’re striving for.”

The market takes place the second Saturday in July, August and September at Huntamer Park in downtown Lacey. Each event averages about 1,500 attendees, Kagy said. The market moved to its current format about seven years ago after formerly running every weekend during the summer.

“We’re always looking to build it up,” said Kagy, who recruited the vendors and entertainers. “When we do surveys, the public wants it to happen more often.”

Along with food and craft vendors, Saturday’s event featured entertainment all day, including a Zumba dance party, magician Michael Budd and Mukana Marimba, which filled the park with joyful Zimbabwe-style music. New to the market Saturday was an inflatable bouncy house and an inflatable slide for children.

The market doubled as an outlet for charity. The Olympia Kiwanis Club was selling picture-perfect organic vegetables such as tomatoes, garlic, green beans, potatoes, kale, cabbage and bundles of green onions. Kiwanis volunteer Derek Valley said the club raised nearly 28,000 pounds of produce last year to benefit the Thurston County Food Bank. Proceeds from Saturday’s sales will go toward the food project, he said, noting that people prefer buying veggies they can fry or saute.

“We start harvesting in June and go through December,” Valley said.

Lacey’s Stream Team and AmeriCorps hosted an educational booth where people played “Pollution Plinko,” inspired by a popular game show. Also beneath the tent was a model that demonstrated how dirty water ends up in storm drains when people wash their cars. Next month’s activities will include a “pet poop toss” to illustrate the importance of proper pet waste disposal, said Missy Ayres, water resources assistant outreach coordinator.

The poop toss coincides with the market’s next theme, Pet Day, which will run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 13 at Huntamer Park. The schedule includes doggie demonstrations, contests and even a chance for children to ride in carts pulled by Saint Bernards.

One longtime market vendor who sells homegrown weeds will fit right in with Pet Day. Smiling Cat owner Donna Sorensen creates cat toys and cat beds out of recycled materials. She also harvests catnip from her property in Olympia. Sorenson’s catnip is better than the rest, she said, because the herb hang-dries in her living room before going to market.

“My cats go nuts for, like, two days,” she said, adding that all proceeds help fund her participation in cat shows. “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I show cats. That’s my habit.”