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Black Mountain’s popular tailgate market has tacked on a couple of extra weeks of operation this year.

Opening Saturday, May 7 and running through Nov. 19 on the grounds of First Baptist Church, Black Mountain Tailgate Market will have 32 vendors this year selling produce, meat, cheeses, eggs, baked goods, pickles, jams, chocolates, salsa and hot sauce. Also new this year - more vendors selling soaps, jewelry, pottery and a wide array of artisan and craft items. Seafood will be available again this season every other week. There will also be gluten-free baked goods vendor.

The market is a big part of many people’s Saturdays, many of them arriving by 9 a.m. to shop, eat, socialize and listen to music before the market closes at noon.

Joan Engelhardt, who has managed the Black Mountain Tailgate Market since 2009, finds it rewarding to work with a diverse group of vendors each week. She said the market isn’t just about retail - it is also about creating community. Making connections with people is as important as buying products, she said.

Mary Soyenova and Renate Rikkers started the market in 1994. The first market had two vendors and five customers.

The market, called the Valley Garden Market, lasted seven years, Engelhardt said. It moved to the parking lot of what was then Carolina Central Bank (now Sun Trust Bank) in 2002. Elaine and Harry Hamil began working on organizing it in 1995. In 2007-08, the Black Mountain Tailgate Market was held on the grounds of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Church, and in 2009 the Hamils stepped down from management. Engelhard replaced them as manager when the market moved to First Baptist Church.

In 2007, Susan and Nick Nichols of Highlander Farm in Fairview started as vendors with the tailgate market. They have seen a lot of changes, from a few vendors to more than 30, all selling products at a thriving, well-organized market. The Nichols sell lamb and eggs as their main products, as well as homemade jams and flower arrangements with dahlia blossoms from Susan’s garden.

“I make dahlia arrangements for my church and for the market,” she said. “We don’t consider them products, but they are enjoyable to make and sell.”

She grew up on a chicken farm, so when she gets a new flock of baby chicks - she has about 100 now - it’s both work and fun for her.

“We are living my husband’s dream of having his own farm,” she said. She makes jam from the raspberries, blackberries, peaches and other fruit that grow there. “The farm and the tailgate market are our pleasures in life, now that we are retired,” Sue Nichols said. “We have so much fun at the market socializing with other vendors and customers.”

Engelhardt said the market will offer microgreens, locally grown rice - and a craftsman who restores iron skillets and pots. The market has added vendors who sell herbal preparations, handmade clothing, landscape and nursery plants and prepared-at-the-market foods.

Engelhardt said that two additional weeks means the market culminates with the Holiday Market on Nov. 19, the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day.

“I particularly enjoy working with the dedicated vendors we have at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market,” Engelhardt said. “Each of our vendors is serious about offering fresh food, raised and grown locally for our customers.

“When you shop at the market, you have the opportunity to meet the folks growing your food. This is a gift in our current anonymous food culture.”

Get a tree, grow a tree

Read about Montreat’s Native Plant Sale and Arbor Day Celebration on April 30 on Page 3A.

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