COLUMBIA — At the Really, Really Free Market, there can be no selling, no bartering, no soliciting and no dumping, organizer Alisa Hoyt said. It drew a small crowd Sunday afternoon in front of the Boone County Courthouse.
"Only free stuff is allowed,” Hoyt said.
Really, Really Free Market is held on the last Sunday of every month in front of the Boone County Courthouse. The next market will be held Aug. 26 from 1 to 3 p.m.
The idea of this noncommercial event is to provide an alternative way of obtaining goods and services without the traditional use of money. People come together to offer anything they want — as long as it’s free. Some participants bring services or performances to share, such as kite flying; others bring usable items they no longer want.
“It's an event based solely on gift culture and the idea that there is enough of everything for everyone," Hoyt said. "If we share our resources, we won’t need to buy new ones.”
This was the third Really, Really Free Market held in Columbia and Hoyt’s first time as the market’s organizer. Hoyt, however, is not new to the unconditional gift-giving form of commerce.
Hoyt is an assistant moderator for the Columbia Freecycle group and organized a festival theme camp called The Giving Tree, so "this open potluck was right up my alley of interests,” she said in an e-mail.
The idea behind the market originated in San Francisco four years ago, and has grown universally. Angie Galik, a former resident of Columbia, heard about the idea on the radio and decided she wanted to start one.
The only advertising for the event has been through word-of-mouth and online networking because it is an event based on zero commerce, Hoyt said.
“People will come, or not come,” Hoyt said at the event. “Either way it's OK, because it's not a flea market or a yard sale. Life is full of abundance. That's really all the advertising needed.”
Joelle Fronzaglio, a student at Columbia College, attended the event to give away her baby blue road bike that needed new tubes.
“I heard about the event on Facebook,” Fronzaglio said. “I knew that someone else could use the bike, so I took the initiative and brought it here.”
Next to the bike was a large heap of children’s toys that Fadra Hepner, a teacher for sixth through 12th grades in New Franklin, was looking through.
“Here there are all sorts of goodies for my prize box at school. I use these as rewards in my art classes,” Hepner said, as she picked up a small plastic dog and put it in her bag.
Nearby, J.C. Berg, 6, was searching through the toys looking for ones that would help him make art.
“My dad, my mom, my sister and me, we are all about art,” J.C., of Columbia, said.
J.C. picked up a purple cylindrical object, and handed it to his father, Paul Berg.
“I just hope we leave here with less than what we brought,” Paul Berg said.
Hoyt said people get gratification from giving as well as receiving something with no other expectations.
“In an open market we get to share the joy in seeing other people's happiness," Hoyt said via e-mail. "I believe that helps us all to bond and strengthen the community. People are naturally drawn to that, and I believe (Really, Really Free Market) will continue to grow because of it.”
Hoyt has scheduled the next two Really, Really Free Markets to be held on Aug. 29 and Sept. 26, in front of the Boone County Courthouse.