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Published: Sunday, 6/16/2013

COMMENTARY

Historic site alive with activity

BY MARY ALICE POWELL

The Friends of Walker Tavern Historic Site, 40 energetic people who live and breathe the preservation of the historic southeast Michigan landmark, say the Sunday Farmer’s Market there is a carry-over from the old trading post days.

That may be true as far as buying and selling, but you can be certain the goods exchanged in 2013 are far different than the merchandise brought to the Brooklyn tavern grounds in the 19th century. History records that furs, chickens, crop seeds, and farm animals were brought to the crossroads gathering point to be traded and that travelers could even buy a piece of land.

On my two-hour trek around the market last Sunday there were no furs or chickens, but intriguing products such as jewelry, popcorn, hand-sewn mother and daughter apron sets, flowers, plants, trees, organic eggs, herbs, home-baked pies and cookies, jellies, plants, and strawberries.

As the regional growing season progresses, shoppers can expect more produce such as green beans, tomatoes, melons, sweet corn, squash, and apples.

The outdoor markets that are popping up all over southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio serve as an accurate scorecard of locally grown produce. Unlike the supermarkets that sell fruits and vegetables that are shipped from faraway sources the year around, the small local vendors sell only what is available at harvest time.

Ordinarily the Walker Tavern market would be open today, but because the property abuts Michigan International Speedway, the Sunday opening will be resumed next week.

It is the fifth year for the market, according to market master, David Brainerd of Brainerd Orchards in Onsted. An average of 50 vendors set up tents on the grassy pasture that is flanked by thick forests. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Hayes State Park post maintains the grounds.

Shoppers who make the farmers’ market circuit are apt to recognize vendors who may be traveling the same circuit.

“I set up at 14 markets that are all in southeast Michigan and no more than 70 miles in any direction from Brooklyn,” said Donna Garner, who is known as the “Candle Lady.” Ms. Garner has been making candles for eight years infused with more than 140 different fragrances. Dedee Brown, of Onsted, the vendor next to Ms.Garner at the Walker market, sells air-popped corn in 80 different flavors, and claims it is only 30 calories a cup. “I go to at least 100 markets a year. It’s my only job,” she said.

While the market is expected to be a big attraction, many more activities take place on the site.

“This summer is all about families," Bonnie McJennett, Brooklyn, Mich., president of Walker Friends, said. “There is nothing like being outdoors and learning about our great state with family.”

The 66-acre tavern property is open seven days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with several family-oriented events on weekends. In addition to the 1832 tavern, buildings include the Visitors Center in the 1929 Hewitt House and a barn with artifacts.

Walker Wheels, an old-time baseball team that plays by 1860s rules, has a large fan club. Home games are June 29 vs. the Saginaw Old Golds, July 14 vs. the Detroit Early Risers, and July 21 vs. the Sylvania Black Swamp Frogs. Other programs include concerts, picnics, and lectures. For dates and details of the full program through Oct. 14, call 517-467-4401 or visit www.michigan.gov/walkertavern.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com



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