VERSAILLES, Mo. - Versailles saw a new incarnation of its farmers market begin in Friday Night on the Square, the revamped and revitalized form of the town's previous market.
The new farmers market launched Friday night at its Fisher Street location and will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. every Friday night through Sept. 20.
Jim Tatangelo, who coordinates Friday Night on the Square with his wife, Jan, said the new market is more of a rebirth than a renovation as the old farmers market died with last year's drought.
"The drought hit, and the farmers just stopped coming," he said.
Friday's setup was small in comparison to the Tatangelos' vision for the event. At the time, the market had nine registered vendors, and Jim said he's taking more as they come in. With permission to close down Fisher Street all the way from Memorial Park to where it crosses Newton Street, the market could hold up to 31 vendors.
Currently included on the list of vendors are a few produce booths, as well as booths for custom furniture and handmade candles. The Morgan County Health Center has a booth to discuss diet and nutrition, and members of the Versailles Area Chamber of Commerce offered snacks at their booth. Additionally, a non-profit booth will feature a different organization each week, starting last Friday with the Relay for Life Morgan County, whose annual cancer-research fundraiser took place at the Versailles courthouse the week before.
"We're looking for people doing crafts, baked goods, any other produce from farmers or just regular persons who have gardens," Jim said. "A lot of handmade stuff is what we're focusing on, also."
The farmers market is a short walk from the Tatangelos' Fisher Street restaurant, Roca's on the Square. The couple moved to Versailles only a year ago from the state of California after Jan developed allergies that forced her to move out of the area, which is when they discovered the 117-year-old building where they opened their Versailles coffeehouse.
Very involved in their community back in California, Jim and Jan found taking on responsibility for the farmers market a natural transition.
"I was volunteered for this about two months ago," he joked.
Jim was present at the meeting when members of the Versailles Area Chamber of Commerce were discussing the community's need for the market. He was not on the chamber's board at the time - although he is now - but he offered to take it on.
"We're basically starting from scratch," he said.
Still optimistic, Jim admitted he might have gotten more than he bargained for.
"I did some research, and it said to do this a year ahead of time to start; and we're doing it in two months," he said. "We're going to be building it as it goes along, but it's starting to take shape."
Friday Night on the Square won't be exactly like the old farmers market. For starters, its hours of operation have been moved from afternoon to evening to avoid the heat and "keep it shady for vendors and farmers and also for the people who come to the market," Jim said.
Friday's market was set to patriotic music over loudspeakers, but Jim said he hopes to have other entertainment and activities up and running soon.
"We're looking to do some things for kids," Jim said, mentioning sidewalk art, storytelling contests and a regular booth just for children as possibilities. They also want to book some live music performances.
"It's going to be a different kind of farmers market, I think. These are things that they never did in the past," Jim said. "We think it's going to be really good and exciting to kind of give people something to do on Fridays nights here in Versailles."
"It's really America," Jan said as she watched the farmers market in action. "You have the music and the food ... and this is just really America."
Vendors who participated in the farmers market's opening night were optimistic about the changes.
"I think it will be a good setup," said Matthew Hoover, who sells herbs and other plants at his booth. "The variety is what looks like it will be the interesting part."
"I'm impressed," said baked-goods vendor Marlene Sauder, who was selling at her first farmers market. "I like how quickly everything disappeared."
As for the immediate future of Friday Night on the Square, the Tatangelos are simply looking for more vendors to join the fun. For more information or to register about the farmers market, call Jim and Jan Tatangelo at their restaurant at 573-378-7350.