Melissa Nodzu knows her way around a market booth. A longtime vendor (with her husband) at Boise's Capital City Public Market, Nodzu is now trying to create that same sort of community attraction--albeit on a smaller scale--as the manager of the Eagle Saturday Market (eaglearts.org).
"It's important for creating sense of community," she said of the weekend market that draws those in search of fresh local produce and work by area artists to the center of old downtown Eagle's Heritage Park during the summer and fall.
"It's nice to be able to help nurture that," she said. "[We're] trying to cultivate community. [Artists] can stay in our own backyard and get a little piece of the pie."
Nodzu--who took over management of the Eagle market in 2011--is careful to make a distinction between the big markets nearby and Eagle's smaller event. Not only is it "cozy and quaint," but it is also a market specifically designed around artists, not farmers, and is sponsored by the Eagle Arts Commission.
"We're trying to nurture and bring awareness to local artisans," she said. "Eagle is a nice, little, homey, laid-back market that's a good place to get exposure."
Each week, between 40 and 50 vendors set out their wares while area musicians perform for the crowd. Once a month, selected artists use the market as an outdoor studio space, taking the opportunity to share their process with the public.
For Nodzu, it's not only about selling art or showing off the local talent. For her, the appeal of a public market falls in line with the reason farmers markets are exploding in popularity everywhere.
"It has a lot to do with the local movement," she said, adding that more people want to support their communities.
"All farmers markets, that's part of their goal, to create that sense of community," she said.
But in a town like Eagle, where the majority of the population commutes to work and then fills their weekends with kids' activities, it can be challenging to create that community feel.
"I know it's hard for some families," Nodzu said. "We're creating activities that encourage people to come out."
She also knows that it's sometimes a hard sell to get even locals to come to a small market when Boise's large-scale markets are so close. Still, regardless of the size, Nodzu sees community markets as a way for people to reclaim personal interactions.
"People are yearning for a connection," she said. "What's happened--especially with technology and suburbia--people have become disconnected. ... [A] farmers market is a great place to reconnect."