For more than 50 years people in North Florida and South Georgia have eagerly awaited the annual Market Days, held in the weeks before the year-end holidays. The two-day event, benefiting the Tallahassee Museum, happens this coming weekend.
The museum’s Executive Director, Russell Daws, marveled at how the event has evolved and grown over its long history.
“And we’ve been doing it for 54 years!” he exclaimed, shaking his head slightly in disbelief. “It’s amazing when I talk to some of those I’ll call ‘old timers’ that Market Days started at the Museum. I can’t picture now trying to do it there, but it quickly outgrew and here we are today with almost 20,000 visitors, 300 vendors and a significant boost to the Museum’s bottom line.”
That vast turnout is why the show and sale moved to its present home at the North Florida Fairgrounds several years back. Daws believed there are good reasons for Market Days’ longevity and success.
“Part of the success of Market Days is the quality of what we offer, the fact that it’s all original handmade work. But you know sometimes when you hear ‘homemade arts and crafts’you say, ‘I’m going to regift that this year.’ But not Market Days. I can go into a member or donor’s home and almost track the History of Market Days by the things they have in their house.”
Also, added Daws, the event has kept up with the times as a select group of volunteers spends long hours matching the mix of vendors to current trends.
“You’re not buying 1950s style arts and crafts. You’re getting contemporary stuff and we bring people from all over the country so it’s quite an amazing accomplishment for the volunteers, but also this community to have what is really one of the largest arts and crafts shows in the southeast.”
And it’s not just those associated with Market Days who have been singing its praises.
“The quality continues to be recognized by a publication called ‘Sunshine Artists,'” Daws said. “This year we were named number 11 out of the top 200 shows in the country. Last year we were in the top 10.”
Contributing to that quality, asserted Daws, is the constant search for new and exciting artists and craftspeople to augment those vendors who are multi-year favorites.
“So many of the good vendors come year-after-year. And we have a commitment this year for about 50 new vendors out of our 300. So you’re always keeping some freshness. And we do hear, ‘Where is so-and-so? I always buy from so-and-so!’ Well, so-and-so didn’t come this year, didn’t apply, didn’t get accepted.”
So-and-so may also have retired, or even passed away. Market Days provides fully 10 percent of the Tallahassee Museum’s yearly budget. Daws said that support is critical to the Museum’s core mission.
“The cultures that have been here in the past and aren’t here today and new cultures coming in all the time. And trying to be really a community gathering place for people where perspectives can be shared and people can learn from each other.”
Market Days starts with a limited-admission Early Bird shopping opportunity this Saturday morning from 8:00 until 10:00. The regular admission is from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 until 4:00. All at the North Florida Fairgrounds.
This story originally appeared on WFSU News.