The Shakespeare Market 1-22-21
By Tom Dillon
Correspondent and Organizer of Shakespeare Market
“Don’t count me again!” That’s what they said at The Shakespeare Market as they went round and round the one-way pedestrian path. Stratford’s own Zane Carey counted them up, one by one, as they streamed in at the Grand Opening of the brand new food and craft market on the grounds of the former American Shakespeare Festival Theater last Sunday.
Masked up, patient, and polite Stratford came out to see the best of one another on a remarkably beautiful sunny winter’s day! Five minutes before the opening bell at 10 am, all was calm. The one-way pedestrian area was successfully assembled, complete with white pine roping and holiday lights! The 18 vendors and 3 community groups all arrived and set up in an orderly fashion waiting to see if anyone would take the time to come out and get a breath of fresh air.
Then you all showed up!! Who could have imagined that a shoestring budget and 18 posts on Facebook would generate so much community enthusiasm?? STRATFORD!! That’s who! STRATFORD did! And we did it together!
An all-volunteer team of five gratefully accepted the generous offer from Elizabeth and Joe Saint, along with their two young children, to help at the last minute! They jumped right in and managed traffic for 3 bewildering hours! What a privilege to have a front row seat to all that joy and enthusiasm!
The Shakespeare Market is the vision of the Stratford community. It was born in the town forums held two years ago in the wake of its final tragedy. Nearly 1,000 of us participated in person or by email in an extraordinary community conversation about what to do from here. Orna Rawls was there at the very start. She reminded us all to “transform problems into possibilities.” And so we have!
These trying times – the loss of the theater, a global pandemic, the cold of winter, the struggling economy – have all conspired together to create something wonderful. A new expression of an incredible community with endless possibilities. A place where we can come together and combine our magical diversity into something greater than the sum of its parts. STRATFORD – pure and simple.
There has been an incredible outpouring of local interest in participating as a vendor at the market. Stratford, this is our market and we want everyone to be able to participate. More than 100 of you have reached out to participate as vendors, 80 since Jan 1! But
remember, not 30 days ago, there was a thought that NO one would show up in the cold and vendors would go home empty handed. Bewildered at how they got convinced to do such a ridiculous thing! In turn, you provided some of them with their best sales days in a year, some said it was their best day ever!
Vendors were gobsmacked at your enthusiasm! Wave Hill Breads sold out…TWICE. First, you wiped them out. Then they had another delivery made from their family owned Fairfield county bakery, and you bought everything they brought…again! Incredible.
Many of the crafters you met are our friends and neighbors. Residents Jennifer Csedrik and Flora Shein were there too, with positivity centered clothing and priceless Memory Bears. Dave Finn of Eaglewood Farms is the one who suggested getting it started in the winter! All three are graduates of the great Paradise Green Monday Market created by Stratford’s own Laurie and Ed Popadic of Pepe’s Cream of the Crop clams. Lordship’s Whitney Foss was the key to connecting with such a talented group of artisans and entrepreneurs. None of this was possible without them!
If you have submitted your information to be a vendor, please know that we want you! We are convinced we are going to be here year round. We are convinced that this will become a Stratford institution. Just think of it this way. If you are lucky enough to not get a spot before the first season ends on April 18 – you may just find yourself at a warm sunny table in the spring.
Plans are now being re-worked, expanded and entirely reimagined. There is a lot of work to do. And work takes time. And time requires patience. We want everyone to enjoy food and craft vendors, art and music performances, community spirited events and activities. But public safety has to be on the top of our list! Masking is a requirement and social distancing is the only hope we have to come together in this pandemic that has affected us all. Without social distancing, we cannot have what we all want. With social distancing we have a chance. Every person needs to make this their first and last thought before, during and after entering and exiting the Market! We can only hope to do this together if we get outside, mask up and stay six feet apart. Traffic management, parking, pedestrian queues, vendor quantity, spacing and location are all under consideration.
Our goal is to keep this event accessible to our seniors. Seniors get seniority! That means they come first! Our most experienced residents can expect we will have more proximate parking reserved for you! Thank you for your patience!
Stay tuned on social media https://www.facebook.com/TheShakespeareMarket and the website https://www.theshakespearemarket.org/. You can find out more about what the community said about the future of the Shakespeare property at http://www.townofstratford.com/content/39832/39846/39905/105682.aspx. Get involved!
Special thanks to Gladys Ramos and Olga Pena from Stratford’s Latin Festival for sharing their experience and contacts! All the town ‘s leadership and staff enthusiastically supported the community’s vision! Without them, and so many others, this would not have been possible. Ironically, everyone who made everything possible, all think they hardly did anything at all! Imagine that!
Stay tuned for the next market!