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By MARIANNE HALE firstname.lastname@example.org
ELIZABETHTOWN — Those who helped obtain money for a permanent structure for the Hardin County Farmers Market moved one step closer Thursday morning to seeing the growth of a seed they planted in 2002.
Local officials broke ground for the open-air steel pavilion to be built at the market’s location on the corner of U.S. 62 and Peterson Drive.
“We’re just excited to get to this point,” said Don Wise, president of the Hardin County Regional Farmers Market Foundation, in a phone interview after the groundbreaking.
Now that the market has a permanent home, Wise looks to develop the space after the steel structure is ready for use. Wise said that should be about July 1.
Before the 2008 market season when vendors set up at their permanent space, they sold their goods at various parking lots throughout the market’s lifetime of more than 20 years, said Brenda Thomas, former president of the Hardin County Farmers Market.
Wise said when he was chairman of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Chamber of Commerce in 2002, he had a challenge to implement projects that would improve the community. Within that was a challenge to secure a permanent place for the farmers market.
He said a $500,000 community development grant from the state helped pay for the market’s new home and steel pavilion.
Money from state and local agencies paid for the rest of the project, Wise said.
“Once the building goes up, it will be visible evidence other than just a parking lot,” Wise said. “It’ll be an icon of its permanency.”
The pavilion can accommodate up to 24 12-foot spots for vendors, he said.
Thomas said the market has 33 members, so they all won’t be able to fit in the space. But some vendors don’t have to take up an entire spot and might, for example, only need 8 feet, possibly creating more spots.
Wise said vendors grow different foods and their crops are available at different times throughout the May to October season, so they all won’t have to use the pavilion at the same time.
He would like to see the pavilion expanded and concessions, storage space and restrooms other than porta-potties added to the site in the future. The focus still is on getting the final part of phase 1 completed — the steel pavilion.
“It’s not all the building that we would like to have,” he said. “It’s certainly a good step in the right direction.”
After Wise and local officials spoke about the project, they donned white construction hats and grabbed shovels to do the official groundbreaking.
Across the gravel lot, vendors stood by their homemade, homegrown goods under tents, awaiting customers.
Vendor Jack Karr said the only good thing about the pavilion is that vendors won’t have to have tents.
He said he’s been selling with the market since 1995, and he’s fine with or without the pavilion.
Thomas said she appreciates all the work people have done to get as far as they have with the project, but it’s not over yet.
“We won’t be truly happy until we’re under-roof,” she said. Marianne Hale can be reached at (270) 505-1740.