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Chattanooga Market

August 4, 2010

After spending the weekend in Knoxville and speaking with the various vendors, I found one vendor – a husband and wife team who owned the company Kountry Kupboards – who told me about two Sunday markets: Chattanooga Market @ the First Tennessee Pavilion and another market in Atlanta. Thanks, Kountry Kupboards.

Since I was heading toward Greenville, SC, I figured a little backtrack through Chattanooga and Atlanta to make my way into South Carolina would be worth the added miles if I could hit both markets. I figured I could reach Chattanooga by 11:00 if I left Knoxville around 9:00 and then hit Atlanta by mid-afternoon, that this would be one part of what I was trying to do with the project, a sort of driving tour of Farmers’ Markets. Instead of cultural tourism, I would be actively engaging in farmers’ market tourism, or as I like to call it, Locavoreurism.

I made it to Knoxville on time and followed the directions my iPhone had provided – hook it up Apple; I would like the new iPhone free once it is fixed – but I ended up at some weird sort of intersection that didn’t look like a location for any markets I had been to prior. While I was in the process of turning around to better locate the little red “pin” on my map, I pulled right into the First Tennessee Pavilion parking lot.

As you can see, it is a pretty massive structure, and the market was much more than just produce and specialty food items. Half of the market, or more, consisted of craft booths full of trinkets and clothing and blankets and candles and leather products. And as a side note, the leather man, or cordwainer, was quite an ass and was adament that I did not take any pictures of his work. He went so far as to stay standing as I walked out of the pavilion with my arms full of produce and camera to ensure that I was not snapping any shots from a distance. While this come-out-of-the-holler guy ruined my exit from the market, I have since come to respect his privacy as an artist, but felt that he could have confronted me with a more congenial tone. Afterall, I sure as hell was not dressed like a person who was going to head home, get out my leather working tools, and start ripping off his style. I don’t think handkerchief wrapped around your head like an oversized head band, cargo shorts and a rage against the machine t-shirt scream out cordswain.

It was Latin Fair day on June 6 and there was a certain smell in the air, something like meat grilling and sharp spices and a hint of lime juice. People were dancing just off the seating area flanked on two sides by hot food stands at the opposite end of the entrance. The quick moves the dancers showcased inspired some of the little kids mingling around to join in and that was that.

I slinked around the pavilion navigating the various consumers, trying to be like a fly on the wall who was snapping pictures. I performed a couple of laps to check all the stands out, assess some prices, size up what was photo genic and not, but moved much more deliberately through the market since I was on a schedule, a feeling that seemed to pervade most of the rest of my market stops. It seemed that my leisurely strolls through the markets had turned at this point into something more like work.

But work this market was not for the consumers. It was a complete event. There were things for kids to do just outside the pavilion – some kind of block assembly thing which I failed to take a picture of because it is weird taking pictures of someone else’s children. Inside the pavilion, there was a free massage stand as well as a small rock climbing wall. Fresh food, overpriced trinkets that someone has devoted their entire free time (or life) toward making, taco stand-like food vendors, local band(s), fold out tables. There was kettle corn, three salsa stands, some guy yelling, “Try My Cheese,” a boy selling soap, fresh fruit, coffee and pastries, an information table that turned food stamps/EBT into Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be used at the market, and a Clemson alumn selling jellies and salsas.  The only thing that this market was missing was some sort of minstrel, a few panhandlers, and some animals – live animals.

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It was a good detour that resulted in the purchasing of Russian Red Kale, two cheese-covered soft pretzles, an alligator bread, a french baguette, a not-so-delicious cup of coffee, a plastic container of blueberries, and a jar of eggplant marinara from my fellow Clemson alumn. I figured everything else I needed for a meal at my friend’s house could be purchased at the Atlanta market, an assumption that took a left turn at a wrong address.

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