CHESTER, Vt. – On Saturday, May 8, a new outdoor marketplace of vendors offering everything from handmade crafts, jewelry, and clothing to children’s books, baked and farm goods opened in the field next to Chester’s American Legion Post 67 on Route 103.
The opening morning, with about 25 eager vendors, was in the high 50s, dreary and overcast, and more than one person said, “At least it’s not raining.” That positive attitude was pervasive as friendly, optimistic vibe prevailed among both vendors and their prospective customers who all seemed happy to be out for the first time in over a year.
Early on, one of the staff at the Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary table selling homemade baked goods said they were “doing well so far. It’s been a good turn out.”
Last fall pandemic restrictions caused the cancellation of what would have been the 46th year of the ever-popular Chester Fall Festival of artists and artisans on the Chester green.
Ed Peterson, newly elected Commander of the Post, came up with the idea of having an outdoor flea market on the field next to their building as an alternative. Their field allowed much more space for distancing than the traditionally vendor packed green for an event. Based on the success of last fall’s event, the Legion is now going to hold an outdoor market on their field every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Columbus Day and on as weather permits.
Organizer Sue Willis said, “Everyone was begging to come back again.” She says she is “looking to make it a fun place to come and shop.”
Vendors were not only locals but some came from as far as Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Manchester, and Windsor. Willis hopes to get as many as 40 vendors coming consistently through the season. She says there is no requirement to come every time. She says she is “loosey goosey” but would like to have things lined up at least a week in advance.
In the first hour, she said she had already signed up three new vendors for the next weekend. A crafter who also had handmade silver jewelry said she would come about once a month. Matt and Laura Bittel of Hiz and Herz Crafting from Arlington indicated they would come about once a month as well.
Willis says there are plans for the future. She hopes to add a farmer’s market with fresh vegetables and other farm goods as well as food to eat like hot dogs and lunch items and larger vendor areas for flea market type items. There is quite a bit of space to expand. She also says the Legion is putting all the rental money into a “field development fund” with the hope of adding things like outside restroom facilities as opposed to the current porta potties.
This year, the Legion’s traditional Fourth of July celebration will be added with horse pulls, fireworks, and other festivities. Willis said, “I think we’re going to be a success!”
Peterson stressed that they will follow all the changing pandemic guidelines, and the wide-open field is an excellent setting for the new market. Anyone seeking information can call Sue Willis at 802-384-0128.