Fresh fruits and vegetables from within a 100-mile radius, artisanal items and homemade culinary goods will fill booths at the downtown O’Fallon Station — inside and out — when the new Vine Street Market opens this spring.
City leaders hope the downtown market, which will operate for 24 weeks from the second Saturday in May to the third Saturday in October, from 8 a.m. to noon, will become a destination.
Mayor Herb Roach said he hopes market patrons will visit other shops and restaurants nearby.
“I’m excited about what this new venue can do for our downtown area,” Roach said. “While the market is just starting to come together, the business owners in the downtown area are also starting to cooperate on upcoming events and attractions. City staff has been meeting with the business owners frequently and we think that this new partnership will pay great dividends for downtown, and anyone visiting the area.”
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The O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department is overseeing the project, with horticulturist Sarah Burton also the market coordinator.
“We are really excited about it, and how it will bring the community together,” Burton said.
Burton has done much research. She lived in Iowa for 10 years, and was familiar with the popular Des Moines Farmers Market.
“I spent a lot of time there. It was a destination for many people from all over — it was really phenomenal,” she said.
The metro-east’s largest farmers market is in Edwardsville, the Land of Goshen Community Market. It attracts 2,000 patrons on Saturdays, and they have a winter market, too.
Like that market, O’Fallon will have meat, eggs and produce from a 100-mile radius and handmade and homemade products.
In addition to the fresh homegrown items, she wanted to include culinary and artisanal products, so there are three categories — for growers, for culinary (bakers, canners, honey, eggs, meat) and artisans, if you make things like soap, fiber arts, candles, woodwork, jewelry, baskets, and so forth.
“I wanted to add a unique environment, so that artists and farmers could be together,” she said. “It opens up a lot of possibilities.”
Vendors will be able to come for a day, or six weeks, or 12 weeks, she said.
“One of our cool things is that you can choose your dates. You don’t have to commit to all 24 weeks, you can change what weeks to suit your schedule. We want people to be able to come,” Burton said.
The O’Fallon Garden Club will host its spring plant sale on May 11 at the market this year, she said.
The Artisan Guild of Southern Illinois will feature different people in their booth every week.
As the city horticulturist for the past six years, Burton has made the parks and city areas of O’Fallon bloom. She is grateful to have this market opportunity.
“It’s a really good fit for me,” she said.
Market is looking for vendors
The market is now accepting vendor applications —for farmers/growers, artisans and culinary, which are available on the website, www.ofallonstation.com, as are the Market rules. They must be sent to Market Coordinator Sarah Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She has a small board that vets the applications, meeting once a month, and about 20 have been submitted.
They had approved seven, with four from O’Fallon, and had 10 pending, to date. They are seeking more applicants.
Burton said she is discovering how many O’Fallon residents have special talents.
“I’m learning about people who grow heirloom produce and bake bread. I’m finding out about so many residents who do cool things in O’Fallon, and people I never knew before,” she said.
As an added special touch, music will be a part of the market scene every week. All but two weeks, the acts will be sponsored by Avenue Realty.
Kathy Mordini, owner of Avenue Realty, has sponsored music at the Belleville Farmers Market for several years, and will do both venues this year. She also participated in the Christmas activities, entered a decorated tree in the Festival of Trees – a second place finish – and sponsored Storytime with Mrs. Claus.
“It is very important to me that Avenue give back to the community. I’m pleased I can use my creative background to organize and sponsor the live music that will play during O’Fallon Station’s Vine Street Market on Saturday mornings,” she said.
“I don’t find anything more enjoyable than an open air market with live music, so it is my pleasure to add the ambiance of live music every weekend.”
The musicians come from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area, she said.
“It’s all genres of music, but mainly a lot of singer-songwriters. Some play covers, some play their own music,” she said.
There is a variety of folk, country, pop-rock artists. A complete schedule will be released this spring. The first two months have been booked, to July. For more information, contact Mordini at email@example.com
The other two weekends will be Pop-Up Artists, Burton said. That means local artists will be given short blocks of time to play on two Saturdays.
The pavilion construction is still in progress but near completion this week.
“We’re going to have outdoor seating too,” Burton said. “Booths will be inside and out.”
The city unveiled the design by Quadrant Design last March for the downtown pavilion, which is located near the corner of First Street and Vine. Official address is: 212 E. First St. The site is bordered by Vine Street on the west, First Street to the south, Apple Street to the east, and the railroad tracks to the north.
Designed as a central gathering place in the heart of the community, this project was funded as part of the downtown revitalization and economic initiative that was a signature component of Destination O’Fallon.
City leaders want the downtown pavilion to be attractive to residents, visitors and businesses. Besides the farmers’ market, concerts, festivals and other events are among the activities being considered.
“Downtown has a special place in my heart,” Roach wrote in his weekly newspaper column.
“Across the nation, downtowns have taken a backseat to urban development and interstate commerce. The popularity of online shopping has also created challenges on small businesses. But over the past few years, downtowns have regained their popularity as more people hunger for nostalgia and community identity,” he said.
City hopes market will be a destination
Not only does downtown O’Fallon have great shopping, services and eateries, it also serves as the heart and central meeting place for the community,” he said.
“This is one of the reasons why the City Council has made downtown a priority. We have taken large steps to increase parking and improve walkability. With the opening of O’Fallon Station and the revitalization of the partnership between the City of O’Fallon and business owners in downtown O’Fallon, the next few years are going to be great!”
The $1.5 million plaza, earmarked in the 2018 budget, was approved in 2016 and is funded through an increased hotel-motel tax.
The original proposed multipurpose community plaza design for the 1.7-acre space had to be scrapped after a high-pressure natural gas line was discovered in the area, and that would have had to be moved, which was cost-prohibitive. The architects and designers were tasked with coming up with an alternative plan unaffected by the gas line.
The city worked with the railroad company and St. Clair County to develop more parking.
Korte & Luitjohan constructed the Downtown Plaza and Rooters Asphalt constructed the City Hall parking lot, which added $300,000 to the budget for a total $1.8 million.
The parking lot has 46 spots. City employees can park there during the day, and then at night, people can park there for events.
The downtown pavilion is available for rentals and events.
“We’ll be having classes there too,” Burton said. She hopes to release a class schedule early this spring.
For more information about rentals and events at the O’Fallon Station, visit: http://ofallonstation.com/
The Market Rules and Regulations are a PDF document here: http://theofallonstation.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Vine-Street-Market-at-OFallon-Station-Rules-Regulations.pdf
For more information about the O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department, visit www. http://ofallonparksandrec.com/ or call 618-624-0139.
For more information about the Destination O’Fallon initiative, visit www.ofallonillinois.org/.