There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Grass Valley Downtown Association shifting its Thursday Night Market toward a more “local” focus.
Despite initiatives and efforts to “buy local” in recent years, we know that western Nevada County residents still spend more than $200 million “down the hill” annually, according to a recent report commissioned by the city of Grass Valley. Efforts at keeping those dollars in the community are to be lauded. And considering the GVDA “is a community partner that creates opportunities for businesses to prosper while promoting and preserving the historic aspect of our downtown,” the organization’s mission itself is locally focused.
“Our hope is that by adding some programs and catering to local vendors and farmers (at Thursday Night Market), people will want to participate and support our local economy,” GVDA Executive Director Julia Jordan to The Union this week.
But a big part of western Nevada County’s local community — and its economy — is its wealth of nonprofit organizations, which combined could be considered the third-largest employer in the county, spending about $34 million on collective salaries and benefits to nearly 600 people, as reported in the Feb. 1 edition of The Union. In addition to the community services they offer or the community issues they seek to solve, nonprofits are also a crucial cog in our community due to their economic impact.
Whether they were registering voters, shaking hands and talking about their organizations’ efforts or even simply selling duck race tickets, nonprofit organizations have used community markets and street fairs as a chance to raise awareness and funding or to identify collaborative opportunities for their work in the community. As a nonprofit organization itself, which receives taxpayer funding from the city of Grass Valley, the downtown association surely can understand the nonprofits needing such interaction at community events.
And yes, some of those booths provide political information, which — like it or not — is also a part of our community.
“When I received an email from Nevada County Democrats Chair Jim Firth, alerting me that we were no longer welcome at the market, I didn’t understand,” Marilyn Chambliss wrote in letter to The Union. “We support local food producers, local artisans, local eateries and local nonprofits. We would hate to see the Grass Valley Market become less of a ‘community gathering.’
“We registered voters, conversed with our neighbors and invited everyone to our ‘First Tuesday’ educational forums. Our presence, along with other nonprofit groups and organizations, provides a necessary opportunity for local residents and visitors alike to appreciate the diversity of our wonderful area.”
In the Thursday Night Market’s transition, which Jordan described as an “absolutely drastic change,” many of the informational booths, such as those of nonprofit organizations, will be replaced by 60 to 70 percent of the vendors selling food and food-related items. It remains to be seen whether such an emphasis on food will impact other weekly farmers markets in the Nevada City and Grass Valley area. The shift is the result of surveys the GVDA conducted with its members and the community at large, Jordan said.
Focusing on local products from local businesses and offering music and entertainment for young children and teens — all in Grass Valley’s newly declared smoke-free downtown environment — are all positive aspects of the downtown association’s decision.
But the decision to exclude such civic-minded segments as our local nonprofit organizations from such a community event leaves us to wonder why.