COLUMBIA — Hot air balloons dotted the sky and musicians serenaded the crowd. A line formed out of the big tent where local chefs had prepared food for the event. It was 85 degrees when the "Imagine the Farmers' Market Pavilion" party started Saturday night, but, just like the market in the morning, plenty of people were there.
There was one big difference, though: the amount of open space.
Farmers come to the market on Saturday mornings to sell their products from tents, lined up next to each other on opposite sides. On Saturday night, however, the tents were in a different formation. Tents were arranged to demonstrate what the Columbia Farmers' Market might look like if all 86 covered, open-sided vendor stalls were stationed around a centralized building. Along with a lawn, playground area and demonstration garden, the building would have permanent restrooms, a kitchen and office or meeting space.
"It has been a long process," said Guy Clark, vice chair of Sustainable Farms & Communities. "This is sort of a transition from the way we are to how we will be. It's an exciting transition."
Clark talked about possible advantages of the shelter. It could extend the farmers' selling season and add value to their product, he said. The covered pavilion would also offer customers shelter from the rain.
Jim and Deanna Crocker, from Crocker Farms just south of Centralia, said they thought the covered shelter would be a great advantage for the market.
"Not just for us," Deanna Crocker said. "But for the customers. We have some shade from the sun, but the customers don't and they still come out."
Jim Crocker added: "That's the part that amazed me the most. We've been out here in unbearable heat and when it's 32 degrees, literally, and people still come out to support us."
"The support of the community is just amazing," Deanna Crocker said.
Bob and Jan Thomas, frequent visitors to the market, were also in attendance Saturday night.
"Everybody's been working so hard," Jan Thomas said. The pavilion "is well deserved."