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Bassett market provides more than food to visitors
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Ruby Davis, coordinator of the Basseett Community Market, stands amid vendors at a recent market in the old Bassett train depot. The markets have become a gathering place for members of the community, Davis said. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Monday, September 9, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Anyone who has visited the Bassett Community Market probably has talked to Ruth Ridgeway.

Ridgeway is in her third year of selling homemade foods and quilted items at the farmer’s market in the former Bassett train depot. Laughing, she said she has become known as “the resident big mouth” because she tries to talk with everyone who stops by the market, even if they buy nothing from her.

When out and about in the community, she encourages people to visit the market and sell items they grow or make there, she said.

A former Pennsylvanian, Ridgeway said that when she came south five years ago, she looked for a home in the Henry County town of the same name.

Not having found a suitable one there, she took up residence in Bassett and has since grown fond of the historic depot. She said she wants the building to be successful in its new use as a market and community gathering place.

Arthur Haynes informally calls the depot “the train market.” He recalled that while growing up in adjacent Stanleytown, “I liked to hear the train come by. I loved to hear the whistle.”

Ridgeway and Haynes were among a group of about 50 people gathered at the market around midday Thursday. They included a few vendors, shoppers and people like Haynes — affectionately known to his friends as “Brains” — who came to play card games with friends and socialize.

Socialization is just as important as the shopping, according to those who were there.

A few people gathered near a stage to hear a bluegrass band perform.

Meanwhile, hungry visitors grabbed lunch from a nearby hot dog cart.

The atmosphere is “pleasant, with good, friendly people,” said Joyce Ross, a fruit and vegetable vendor who also runs Fairystone Produce just up the road.

Vendors frequently greeted their customers by name.

“It’s just a nice place where you can talk to people and get to know them,” Ridgeway said.

The market is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, and occasionally it may be open on a Saturday, until the second or third Thursday in October, said Ruby Davis, who manages the market with her husband, Matt.

Cucumbers, squash, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes and pinto beans were among food items being sold on Thursday.

Also for sale were baked goods including cakes and pies, as well as jars of jellies, jams, pickles and chow-chow. Some vendors sold nonfood items such as jewelry, bed quilts, pillows and toys.

All of the items seemed to be homemade, or at least not factory-made.

Davis said the market usually has five to 10 vendors on any given day, but Ridgeway estimated that sometimes it has been no more than three or four.

In fact, on the day that the market first opened in July 2010, there were no vendors. People who came hoping to buy a few treats to take home were not disappointed, though. They stayed to talk and listen to the music.

The number of vendors doesn’t really matter, according to Ridgeway and Davis, as long as people enjoy themselves.

Vendors can sell stuff at the market free of charge. If they let Davis know they are coming, “we’ll fix ‘em a table,” she said.

Each year, Davis said, the market has started off slow and geared up as the season progressed. She cited various reasons.

For instance, a drought kept farmers out of their fields one year because they had not much to pick, she recalled. When the market opened this year, there was a lack of produce resulting from too much rain, she said.

While visitors like to socialize and hear music, “if you don’t have produce, it’s hard to convince people to come in,” Davis said. “They want to see a variety” of things to experience.

Visitors with an urge to do something creative can stop by and “Paint a Chair for Charity” before the market closes this year.

Davis said donated chairs which visitors paint and design in unique ways will be auctioned. Proceeds from their sales will be split between the market and charities selected by the painters.

Craig “Rocky” Rockwell, operations project manager at Philpott Lake, had a mouth full of frankfurter as he stopped and talked to Ridgeway. Due to other commitments, he told her, he had not been able to come to the market much this year and “I figured I’d better make one or two” days before it ends.

“You never know” who is going to stop by the market or what is going to be there, Ridgeway said. “But it’s nice” to find out.


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