Written by Allison Barnes
Fall is a great time to explore the city of Kirksville, as there are lots of events hosted throughout the community that give students and locals opportunities to connect with small-town businesses and artisans. Kirksville is the hub of northeast Missouri, playing host to a farmer’s market, craft and antique shows, as well as other annual festivals.
The Kiwanis Farmer’s Market is a Kirksville staple, running every Saturday from May through October. Each week, vendors rise early to set up their tents by 7:00 AM on the street west of the courthouse, creating a simple way to support local businesses.
One of these local businesses is Caffiend Fix, a coffee shop located on South Franklin street, south of the square. Caffiend Fix has been selling its coffee and Italian sodas at the market for about a month and a half, after employee Trevor Stocks suggested the idea to his boss as a way to advertise for the shop and generate more revenue. Stocks spoke about the benefits of the farmer’s market and what keeps him coming back each week.
“I enjoy coming out here every morning, seeing my neighbors, what people have to offer,” Stocks said. “Helping small towns and small people is the way to go.”
Stocks also spoke about the benefits of buying local produce, saying that produce is not only cheaper at the farmer’s market, but vendors do not use pesticides that one might find on some commercially-grown produce from the grocery store. He also said that supporting local farmers keeps money in the community.
In contrast to Caffiend Fix, which is one of the newest vendors at the market, Steve and Velda Salt of Green Valley Farm have the most years under their belts. The Salts have been selling their produce at the Kirksville farmer’s market for 29 years.
A lifelong gardener, Steve Salt talked about how the farmer’s market has evolved.
“It’s had its ups and downs over the years,” said Steve. “At one point there were only two vendors, and we were one of them.” Now, there are dozens of vendors who set up each week to sell a variety of products.
The Salts grow all their produce either in their four-acres of garden plot or in their half-acre of greenhouse space. Among their herbs and vegetables, they also sell Asian produce, inspired by Steve’s time as a missionary in Asia. “If we have a specialty here it’s variety,” he said.
Steve also spoke of the friendly community atmosphere at the market. “This is a community meeting place,” he said. “It’s like a giant-sized pub without the beer.”
In addition to coffee and produce, the farmer’s market has vendors who sell hand-made soaps, afghans and quilts, hand-made jewelry, baked goods, wood products made from recycled lumber, and much more. The market is open from 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM every Saturday until the end of October, rain or shine.
Besides the farmer’s market, there are other ways to get to know the Kirksville community. A relatively new event here is the Midwest Antique Fest and Flea Market.This event draws visitors from across the state and beyond, and is expected to host over sixty vendors this year. In addition to the booths, the event will feature live music and food throughout both days. The event will be held on the NEMO fairgrounds in Kirksville, and will run from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Friday, September 20th, and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday the 21st. General admission is five dollars, but students can get in at the discounted price of three dollars with their university ID.
The festival, coordinated by Lindsey West and Brittany Kelsey, was named one of America’s top up-and-coming flea markets and vintage shows by Flea Market Style magazine. West, an eastern Iowa native, said she and Kelsey wanted to bring an event like this to Kirksville because they both enjoy flea markets and antiquing, and there was a lack of these events in northeast Missouri. West said events like these help bring in people from outside the community and show them what Kirksville has to offer. “We’re not just a little small town, and we have fun things going on,” she said.
West said this year she is most excited about the new vendors at the festival, including Double Decker Vintage, a European-style double decker bus that has been converted into a mobile store for vintage clothing and accessories. West said variety is one of the biggest things she and Kelsey look for in vendors, so this year’s event will feature several different clothing boutiques with different styles, in addition to the other craft and antique booths.
The flea market is a juried show, meaning West and Kelsey hand-pick the vendors they want at the event. West says they look for “quality versus quantity,” and visit other events across the Midwest and beyond to find unique vendors to invite to the event.
Now in its fourth year, the festival is seeing several returning vendors, as well as many new ones.
“I think people are really starting to see our event as one of the best ones in the Midwest, so we’re attracting new vendors all the time,” West said.
This year’s antiques festival coincides with the Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival, held in downtown Kirksville, on September 21st. In addition to over 80 craft and product vendors, the festival will also host food vendors and a kid’s area. This year is the 45th anniversary of the Red Barn festival, according to festival chair Dwight Buckingham. To commemorate this milestone, a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held before the start of the festival to honor the founders of the original event.
Buckingham said Kirksville has a strong arts scene, due in large part to community members, like the founders of Red Barn festival, who have dedicated time and money to enriching the arts. “They saw a need and they pursued it,” Buckingham said. He went on to say that the arts scene has grown a lot over the years, with help from university students. This student influence is reflected at the festival this year in particular, since it will host a special area where student vendors will set up to showcase their work. Red Barn festival is held from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, September 21st on the square. It is a free event.
Kirksville thrives on the business and patronage of students, and shopping local is the perfect way to get the full Kirksville experience. Get to know what Kirksville has to offer by exploring local events like these.