As announced earlier this week, Grass Valley’s Thursday Night Market will feature a new focus this season with emphasis on local food and artisans.
But that will also mean no commercial vendors and no booths operated by nonprofit organizations.
“We’re focusing on a certified farmers aspect, where it’s a certified farmer, more handcrafted focus with no more commercial items,” said Julia Jordan, executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association. “We’re looking at having more of the market, outdoor feel and less like a street fair.”
One the changes drawing scrutiny following the announcement has been the exclusion of nonprofit organizations or groups with political affiliations.
“The work we were doing at the market primarily was registering voters — and we don’t just register Democrats, but everybody,” said Nevada County Central Committee Chairman Jim Firth. “Julia was quoted (when the changes were announced) that she hopes it becomes more of a community gathering place by changing the format, and I wish her luck.
“I don’t know if by excluding people that’s going to be the result.”
The owners of Heart & Home, a downtown Grass Valley business, support the shift in emphasis to a local market and away from commercialized booths.
“I love the local market thing. I think that’s a great idea,” said Mark Hereford, who owns the store with his wife, Stacy.
“It seemed like on the street there were an awful lot of commercial people, and all merchants downtown support nonprofits, but we are really in favor of keeping the market local and just trying to make it more Nevada County.”
For items that are unavailable within the county but would still benefit the market, the downtown association plans to include some regional vendors, Jordan said.
“What we’re looking for is about 90 percent local,” she said. “We assigned an entire committee to the Thursday night market process, and they came up with a plan to where we have our GVDA members first, so they have first right of refusal, then after that we go out to associate members, who fit the criteria we are looking for. After that, we go out to Grass Valley-Nevada City area, beyond that, Nevada County, then the region to fit the needs we’re looking to meet.
“We don’t really have any tree fruit, so we’ll more than likely bring in some fruit trees from Yuba and Sutter county, but they’re neighboring counties, so it’s focused,” Jordan said.
The market will also seek to include a mix of artisans without excessive overlap, Jordan said.
“So the way we’re thinking of doing it is, for instance, if we have a craft booth, we don’t want it to be all knitting or crocheting,” she said. “So it’s all about variety, and if it’s going to be the exact same product, it will be a first-come, first-served basis.”
As a measure to be more family-oriented, Jordan said the market will also feature a kids zone and teen area, sponsored by nonprofit NEO, a youth sector of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County. Three different stages for entertainment and outdoor dining will also be offered.
“NEO’s area will actually still be included, and we’ll also have a kids zone and provide some craft time,” Jordan said. “So when a family comes downtown, their teens can visit NEO, kids can go to the kids zone, and mom and dad can get vegetables. So there’s something for everyone.”
Without the nonprofit organizations seeking space at the market, the potential for fewer booths would be worth the maintaining a more local focus on food and family fun, Jordan said.
“We won’t miss what we didn’t already have, and we are just going to focus on making it a quality outdoor market kind of concept. And we’re not looking to make money. We’re looking to cover costs,” she said. “Sometimes, times change, and people’s wants and needs change. We did surveys from the community, GVDA members, and did lot of research to see what people are looking for in the market.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.