Community Focus Five Questions with Jennifer Kennedy of the Community Market

The Community Market is one of Lynchburg's most important places.  Not only is it celebrating its incredible 230th anniversary this year, but it serves as one of Downtown Lynchburg's favorite social gathering spaces.  Here, we chat with Jennifer Kennedy, the Market's manager about the past and the future. 

The Community Market is a Lynchburg fixture.  How old is it?  

The Lynchburg Community Market is the third oldest continuous running market in the United States. This year, we celebrate our 230th anniversary which makes the market three years older than the city itself.   It is believed that because the market created a commercial center on the riverfront that was heavily involved in tobacco trade, the incorporation of the city naturally followed.

Are you planning any special events to celebrate the Market's incredible milestone?

 On June 1, 2013 we will celebrate the 230th anniversary of the market from 7am-2pm. On this day, we will pay homage to the market's history with a livestock and heritage craft section along with various memories to be shared by members of the community for whom the market has played a very special part in their life or the life of their family. We will also have demonstrations by all of our artisans inside and will be kicking off the farmer high season that day as well. A new feature at the market is our Music at the Market series, and on this day we will feature bands throughout the day that celebrate the many sounds of our region.

In that many years, the Market has certainly made an impact on Lynchburg.  Can you tell us about a special story of how the Community Market has made a special impact recently? 

There are so many special stories about the market -- both recent and historical  -- which will be recounted at the celebration.  So, instead of sharing those I will share what never ceases to excite me and that is the personal responses I will get in conversation with new customers. Be it college parents delighted to come to the market because it gives them a true sense of the community to which they are releasing their child 'into the wild', a new resident to Lynchburg who is trying to get a sense of their new home and they feel like they have found pieces of it at the market, or perhaps my favorite being a native, the stubborn Lynchburger who has refused to go downtown only to come down to the market on a thriving Saturday and say that they had no idea that our downtown had so much going on and so many people enjoying it. These stories never get old, and I am humbled that I get the chance to intercept many of those delighted with the market.

 Located in one of Downtown Lynchburg's oldest sections, can you tell us anything about the special building that is home to the Market?

The market has actually had many homes in its rich history. First started as an open air market on Water Street  -- now 9th Street -- it was quick to become the central place of commerce and town gathering spot for the Hill City.  In 1814, it found a new home in the center of Water Street as it had outgrown its original home.   It remained in this location from 1814-1872 when it then relocated to Main Street between 11th and 12th Street as this allowed for an auditorium space ample for commerce as well as a livestock yard.  It remained there until it moved to its current location in 1932. This location has served the market well and has seen many transitions. In 1987, improvements were made to the facility including an enclosure to create an interior space, as well as central heat and air, outside farmer's stalls and parking. The market is now home to over 100 vendors a year including farmers, crafters, artisans, bakers, restaurateurs, boutique owners, and cheese mongers.  It continues to be a downtown staple in revitalization, commerce central, and a gathering place for the community.

What's is new and coming up on the horizon?

This season, we are excited to open our demonstration kitchen. Beginning when farmers come back in to high season, we will offer demonstrations by local chefs of how to utilize local ingredients that can be found at the market. These demonstrations will take place in the Demonstration area inside next to Irene's. Also exciting about this space is our development of cooking and culinary classes also offered by local chefs and farmers alike that will give the community the opportunity to learn in depth skills and recipes useful in our region.   Also beginning this year, we will begin accepting SNAP benefits at the market. All eligible products will be available to beneficiaries of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as we will have personnel and staff available to accept benefits in exchange for tokens to be used with the farmers at the market. We are so excited to have these local products available to everyone in the community.