The Kalispell Farmers Market has been canceled this weekend due to unavailability of the mall parking lot, where the popular market has been held for years.
Vendors say the Kalispell Center Mall has decided not to make the parking lot available for the farmers market this year. They were informed of the decision earlier this week.
The farmers market has traditionally started on the third Saturday of April at the mall parking lot and is held through the summer every Saturday.
It’s unclear when it will be able to start up this year and where it will be held.
Multiple vendors said this week they are frustrated that news of the cancellation came so late. They worry about people showing up, some having traveled long distances, and finding an empty lot.
“To cancel a farmers market that’s so successful is crazy to me,” said Allison Young, a local artist and vendor. “There are people who rely on this and we got such late notice.”
The farmers market board is not commenting on the situation beyond saying that it’s currently looking for a new location to hold the market. The mall manager referred questions to a representative from Goodale & Barbieri Company, the mall’s developer. That representative wasn’t immediately available.
Debbie Borgen, a longtime vendor, said she’s worried about both the public and vendors who have no reservations arriving on Saturday at the mall as they have done every third weekend in April over the years.
While vendors like Borgen have reserved spots for the season, she said other vendors show up around 6 a.m. to secure a spot. Without a public announcement or some other notification, those vendors will likely show up again. Borgen also said there are elderly people who schedule their Saturdays around the farmers market.
“My biggest concern is the public,” she said. “What is the public going to think when we’re not there? What is the public going to do? What are they going to think about us for not telling them?”
Betty Jo Malone, a vendor for the past 16 years, said she sells her goods for the experience rather than the money, but other vendors rely on farmers markets for their income.
“For low-income people, this is big,” she said. “It’s very discouraging to vendors.”
Though the market doesn’t have produce this early in the season, it’s a prime time for flowers, plants and art, Young said. She sells her art at other farmers markets, but said the Kalispell Farmers Market is especially lucrative for her throughout the spring and summer.
“As a local artist this is my time of the year to make money,” she said.
Vendors say the longtime partnership with the mall was mutually beneficial, with the mall providing both a good centralized location and customers, and the farmers market providing customers to mall stores.
Borgen said it will be difficult to find a suitable location that has access to bathrooms. Porta-potties would be a less desirable option, Malone said. The board is exploring its options and vendors hope a location is found soon.
“We don’t have a place right now that’s big enough and that has a bathroom,” Borgen said. “We just don’t have a place right now.”
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