Ligonier bounces back with the region’s largest farmer’s market, return from Fort Days
More than a year after the pandemic shut down summer festivals closely, Ligonier is experiencing a comeback like no other.
The city’s resurgence is fueled in part by the festival’s only market that continued to operate last summer – the Ligonier Country Market – and news that its annual fall festival, Fort Ligonier Days, is returning in October. .
The market, located in a field in Ligonier Township on the outskirts of town, is the second-largest farmer’s market in the state and the largest in western Pennsylvania. Every Saturday from May to September, it hosts around 130 vendors who offer everything from grass-fed beef and organic plant-based fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, wine, cider, distilled spirits, artisan cheeses. jewelry, local honey, baked goods and various crafts. The hours are from 8 a.m. to noon.
The outdoor market was able to remain operational last year during restrictions linked to the covid-19 pandemic due to its original classification as a grocery store – a vital business.
The 46-year-old market has grown from a farmer’s market with just 12 local farmers to its current incarnation as a sprawling open-air festival market.
The Market can complete the invoice.
Its mission remains to educate the public on the many roles that agriculture plays in the community. It has regular children’s programs focused on this mission.
Do it, bake it or grow it
But for many, it is the variety of local products that meet the criteria of the market sellers: make it, cook it or cultivate it.
Latrobe residents Katie Smeltzer and her 22-month-old daughter, Abigail, took advantage of the warm and sunny Saturday weather to sneak into the market to check out the sweet corn and range of vegetables at the Yarnick’s Farm stand near the entrance to the market.
“We love flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables,” Smeltzer said, while Abigail glanced shyly behind a bouquet in her stroller.
Helen and John Buchko of Sutersville, regulars in the market for five years, waited patiently in the long line that meandered towards Gahagan’s Flowers. Customers regularly line up for 30 minutes to an hour to buy huge, freshly cut, custom bouquets at the market stall.
Already juggling their purchases of wine, cider, mushrooms, cheese and popcorn, the Buchkos said they made the market a regular part of their summer Saturdays.
“The variety they have here is amazing,” said Helen Buchko.
“We were able to stay open last year because, first and foremost, we were a grocery store,” said Cari Ann Frei, executive director of the Pays de Ligonier market.
Although shoppers were urged to wear masks and social distancing last year, the open-air market has thrived, attracting thousands of new shoppers drawn by the chance to go out and experience something new during the pandemic. .
Frei said they have returned in greater numbers than ever this year.
Volunteers and local police direct traffic. Parking is free, but those who frequent the market are then directed by an exit that takes them around the local school and into Ligonier proper.
Westmoreland County’s 1,500-strong borough, dating back to the mid-1700s, offers a distinctive town square – the Diamond – surrounded by an array of unique shops and restaurants.
Local traders said they could see the fallout from the crowds.
Kathy Brown, a long-time employee at “The Finishing Touch,” a gift shop right next to the Diamond, said she enjoys working on Saturdays when the market is in session.
“We get traffic from the market and I meet so many different people who come from there,” she said.
On the other side of the diamond, Stephany Frede, owner of the Black Bunny store, also saw the changes a year has brought. Most of them have been good.
Frede said she sees the impact of the Country Market when he sponsors his Night Market, a new city-centric event. Ligonier stores remain open for the event reserved for food and drink vendors, the third Thursday of each month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
And when Frede tried to find overnight accommodation nearby for a friend’s visit, she quickly found that all Airbnbs as well as local guesthouses in the area were booked until the fall.
Dianne Stewart, who operates Abigail’s Coffeehouse on the Diamond, is also seeing a strong return to normal.
“Business is better than ever right now,” she said, as customers munched on her homemade baked goods and specialty coffees as the clock ticked around noon and the country market began. to close its doors.
Ligonier Days: they are back
Although the country market remained open last year, Ligonier suffered a heavy blow when authorities were forced to cancel Fort Ligonier Days. The annual three-day fall festival features live music, dozens of artisans and food stalls, and one of the state’s largest parades. It regularly attracts tens of thousands of people to the small town.
The reconstructed fort and museum on the outskirts of town are open to visitors again and Fort Days, which celebrates the 1758 border fort built by the British during the French and Indian Wars, will also be back this year.
Jack McDowell, who chairs the Fort Days committee, said the festival is scheduled for October 8-10.
The festival, which typically features around 200 artisans scattered across five locations across the city along with several dozen food, evening music and fireworks stalls, will be reduced slightly this year, McDowell said.
He said the committee is working to get a distinctive mix of artisans. But some of their regular salespeople simply closed their stores last year after they ran out of business for their jobs.
The committee had canceled the fireworks display which is usually the highlight of the event as well as the live music on Saturday night.
And although the parade usually features a college marching band, McDowell said all schools he contacted told him they weren’t ready to travel this fall just yet.
Nonetheless, he said the parade organizers had lined up “very good units”.
He promised the Fort Ligonier Days would uphold the traditions that made it one of America’s top 100 festivals.
“We firmly believe that we have one of the best small town festivals in America,” McDowell said. “It’s unique. Of the types of crafts and foods that we bring to town on our parade. Our parade is truly one of the few in the country that does not allow politicians and firefighters. We allow the Ligonier VFD to play a role. They can take the parade route to run the booth and raise money, but that’s it.
“Fort Days 2021 will be special because it’s happening,” McDowell said.
Deb Erdley is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, email@example.com or via Twitter .