<pc>Photo by Louise Krafft/Gazette
<cl>John Renner says hello to Alexandria City Manager Jim Hartmann and his wife Marcia and Mayor Bill Euille at the Alexandria Farmer’s Market last Saturday morning.
At 3:30 a.m., Saturday mornings, the first of the vendors start to arrive at Market Square for the Alexandria Farmers Market, one of the oldest in the United States. Market Master Ray Howells and his assistant Dewey Johns is there to greet everyone, help them set-up and take care of any last minute questions or concerns.
Once the market is open for business, at 5:30 a.m., the vendors get ready to sell a hodge-podge of items, from vegetables and fruits, to jams and bloody mary mix.
Not only do the markets around Alexandria and Arlington sell a variety of items, they also come from a variety of locations. For example, Smith Meadows from Berryville, Va., sells meats and home-made pastas at the Del Ray Market on Saturdays and Arlington markets at Courthouse on Saturdays and Columbia Pike on Sundays. Calvin Riggleman, from West Virginia who also sells at a Loudoun County market, will have ramps, which is a type of wild leek, for sale for approximately three more weeks at the Old Town Market.
"Some consider it a West Virginia delicacy," said Riggleman. He also sells a variety of jams, free range eggs and pie butter.
MARKETS DON’T JUST SELL food items, jewelry and art, they are a place to socialize and meet new people or catch up with old friends.
"There is a lot of socialization," said Johns. "It is a family environment. Kids will be playing; same customers will come and talk every week."
Pat Palermino, who sells her scenes of Old Town and other local picturesque views around town "loves the idea of all the people in the morning. It is a welcoming place."
Every vendor has a story of why they sell at that particular market. Some, such as Clarence Devers, Doris Cassedy and Lenard Dove have been at the market for many years, sitting with their parents while they sold items, and then taking over for them as time went on.
Clarence Devers, of Franconia, has been coming to the Old Town market for 80 years. He remembers coming with his parents when he was four years old and sitting while they sold flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Why does he come back week after week, year after year?
"This market keeps me alive," he said.
Cassedy and Dove, who sell home-grown flowers and plants grown from their home in Spotsylvania, have been at the market for 26 years. Their mother had sold items at the market for 65 years.
"I like the early market and that a lot of our customers come back," said Cassedy.
Vendors who come back, year after year, learn things about fellow vendors and help them out.
"It is a place of network, they [the vendors] are supportive of each other," said Howells. "There is no competition. A few vendors sell the same items, yet there is no raising of the prices or competitive nature. Everyone just goes with the flow."
OLD TOWN MARKET also has a history. It has been around since 1749 and is considered to be one of America’s oldest markets, if not the oldest, according to the "Old Town Alexandria Farmers’ Market" brochure. And because of the love people have for the market, it will continue to thrive and allow new and old customers to browse items while, maybe, hearing a little piece of Alexandria history.