Tailgate Market heads into its busiest weekends

Black Mountain News

The Black Mountain Tailgate Market is pushing through its final weekends and now preparing for its season’s grand finale – the holiday market on Nov. 18.

The root vegetables (and smiles) from Melissa Harwin and John Kunkle of Highgate Farm are a big hit at the Tailgate Market.

October is the tailgate market’s busiest month, manager Joan Engelhardt said. Tourists return to town to see the changing leaves, and residents get their last visits in before the market closes down. People with second homes in Montreat come shopping to stock their pantries for the cool weeks ahead.

The Black Mountain Tailgate Market, open 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays, has been going since 1994. The first one, Engelhardt said, was “three local people on the steps of Town Hall and maybe four customers.” The market moved to where Roots & Fruits Organic Market is now. It moved to the parking lot of Sun Trust Bank, then the Unitarian Universalist Church before finding its current home at First Baptist Church’s parking lot.

Engelhardt has been running the market since 2009 and said its “enormous growth” is indicative of the number of people moving to town.

Apples are showing up in droves (and buckets) at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market.

The vendor-run market, which opens in May, has about 30 member vendors now and adds as many as 12 – usually craftspeople - who show up on various weekends. Throughout the summer, the farmers have been bringing a wealth of produce, fruit, meats, cheeses, eggs, baked goods, plants, flowers and other items.

“We’ve had a tomato bonanza the last six weeks,” Engelhardt said. “This time of year, we’re getting radishes and turnips and greens. And apples – boatloads of apples. And green beans and potatoes and sweet potatoes. We just finished corn, but we still have some tomatoes. As we wind down, the produce is abundant.”

The market’s vendors are required to grow what they sell and come from the immediate area – Black Mountain, Old Fort, Asheville, Marshall and Leicester currently being represented. Many of the craft vendors are children who make and sell jewelry, birdhouses, magnets and glitter tattoos, Engelhardt said. There’s always a band playing. Families come and spend the whole day, she said.

“We say, come for the food, stay for the fun,” she said.

Many have been doing just that since the market first opened. They’re among the many who buy most, if not all, of the produce and other ingredients they’ll need for the coming week.

“I would definitely call this a community event,” Engelhardt said. And its busiest Saturdays are on their way. “We go out with a burst of color,” she said.