Group trying to bolster farmers market pavilion plan

February 24, 2014
This artist’s rendering shows the proposed canopy that would cover the city parking lots on South Main Street in Washington, the site of the city’s farmers market.

The Whiskey Rebellion Festival committee plans to donate some of the proceeds from this year’s event in an attempt to bolster the lagging fundraising campaign to build an open-air pavilion for the Main Street Farmers Market in Washington.

Joe Manning, a city councilman and also a member of the festival’s executive committee, said they’re trying to spur donations and possibly even find corporate sponsorships for the $850,000 pavilion project that would cover two city parking lots on South Main Street.

The 1,500-square-foot sloping pavilion originally proposed by the farmers market board in 2011 received $250,000 in Local Share Account grants in previous years, but was rejected by the LSA board for this year’s $200,000 request. It raised about 41 percent of the total expected construction costs, but made little progress over the past year.

“It is a concern, so that’s why we’re hoping through sponsorship with the (Whiskey Rebellion) festival we can generate that funding,” Manning said. “As we were going around soliciting the sponsorships, we said we have to give them a reason to donate to this (project). We need to refocus on the farmers market.”

Manning couldn’t speculate on how much money would be funneled from the festival to the pavilion project. However, he said the executive committee hoped it would help bring awareness to the project and boost private donations and corporate sponsorships.

The committee already made a $30,000 contribution to construction of the pavilion after receiving a large donation from Range Resources in the festival’s inaugural year in 2010, Manning said. That money was sent directly to the Washington County Community Foundation for its 2011 “Day of Giving,” although only an additional $7,300 was donated from other sources during the fundraising event. A total of $358,624 has been raised for the project as of January.

Suzanne Ewing, one of the founders of the farmers market, could not be reached for comment on the pavilion’s financial situation.

Tripp Kline, another member of the Whiskey Rebellion Festival committee, admitted the pavilion would help their event because many of their activities take place in the parking lots.

“It’s a personal opportunity for us, but we also see it as great for the community and an opportunity for us to support something that will help the festival in the long run,” Kline said. “They’re sort of at a critical mass now where they’re ready to push forward and get it done.”

Manning added the farmers market is an integral part of the community, and the pavilion would help attract other events to Washington.

“Of all the things we’ve tried to refocus in the downtown area, the farmers market is by far the most successful event we have on the main street,” Manning said.

He was somewhat optimistic the pavilion project will find the necessary funding, although he could not predict when construction would begin.

“Where we go from here, I’m not really sure as far as grant funding, but I feel like the festival was a natural tie-in because it’s held there,” Manning said. “We need some corporations to step up.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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