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Farmers market set to open 2021 season

‘Master sharpener’ among vendors

After a year’s hiatus due to COVID-19 and the construction of a pavilion in Heritage Plaza, the Altoona Farmers Market will start up again in downtown Altoona on Thursday — for approximately the 35th year.

It’s still headed by Judy Brumbaugh of Williamsburg RD, who didn’t realize that it was important “to keep track” when she started it, she said Tuesday, when asked how long it’s been.

“I was just this crazy woman set up in the parking lot,” she said.

“The parking lot” is what was then across from Shirley’s Shoes and Gables, before the lot became Heritage Plaza, the longtime center for downtown activities.

Brumbaugh was by herself then, but on Thursday, there will be six other vendors alongside her.

Brumbaugh will be selling baked goods — she was in the midst of making 21 angel food cakes Monday afternoon during a phone interview.

In addition to those cakes, there will be cookies, gobs, pies, cinnamon rolls, jams, jellies and pickles.

Potato salad is a possibility — but there’s probably not going to be time to make that, she said.

She’ll also be bringing onions, spinach, rhubarb, arugula — greens with a bite to add “zip” to a salad, she said.

A fellow vendor is a “master sharpener” who will hone customers’ knives, scissors and garden tools “on the spot,” Brumbaugh said.

“I have a lot of dull knives,” she said.

Another sells home-ground flour and corn meal — including meal made from blue corn, she said.

Another sells crocheted items

Another sells soaps.

There are others who will have craft items, including wreaths and floral arrangements, she said.

The market will run every Thursday into the fall, from 9 a.m. to mid-afternoon — usually 2 or

3 p.m., according to Patrick Miller, CEO of the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp., which is affiliated with the Altoona Blair County Development Corp.

Instead of the traditional tents, the new pavilion will shelter the vendors, Miller said.

The market serves “a critical need,” because downtown may be — technically at least — a food desert, Miller said.

There used to be easy access to a supermarket for downtown residents, many of whom are elderly, when the Station Mall was home to the store that began as an A&P, then became a Riverside, then a BiLo, Miller said.

Now, the closest supermarket is Martin’s Foods at Chestnut Avenue, around Second Street, he said.

Some downtown residents likely find it difficult to get to Martin’s, Miller said.

As spring, then summer progress, vendors at the Farmers Market will be selling blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, sweet corn, red beets — including pickled beets — spaghetti squash, tomatoes, peppers and “all the normal things,” Brumbaugh said.

People wonder why she doesn’t give it up, said Brumbaugh, 69 — who gets help from her husband, Fred, 70.

She likes it too much, she said.

“I love meeting people, cooking for them,” she said. “When I hand it to them, and they smile back at you, that’s my reward.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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