PEOPLE who think Saturday mornings are for sleeping in obviously don’t have young children.
Those who do can attest that it seems like toddlers and preschool kids wake up on the weekends even more raring to go than during the week—and Wilmington Island Farmers Market co-founder Debby McIncrow wants to give them a destination.
Starting on Sept. 2 at Islands High School, Saturday mornings are now about pony rides, bouncy houses, exotic birds, storytelling princesses and more.
“Our mission at the market is to appeal to Savannah families by offering all the things that children like to do,” says McIncrow.
“It’s like a carnival every weekend. We want everyone to be entertained.”
WIFM has grown from just a few booths at Islands Community Church to row after colorful row of vendors and artisans in the Islands High parking lot. Each week features something new to do and see—from cooking classes to classic car showcases to drone demos—and a revolving roster of local food trucks to sate the appetite.
The market’s new season kicks off with Enchant My Party’s charming fairytale characters, friendly creatures from Triple J Stables and Wings of Joy Tropical Birds and tasty snacks from the Big Cheese food truck, plus the unveiling of this year’s official poster painted by artist Megan Garrison.
Upcoming Saturdays will bring live music from the band Random Acts, bouncy houses from Party Harbor, Jenni’s Treats from the Streets, cute critters from Oatland Island Wildlife Center and all-ages stretching with Yoga Palz. Well-behaved dogs are always welcome at the market, and they even get their own day on Sept. 30.
“We’re particularly excited about Puppy Palooza,” says McIncrow of the fur-centric event. “We’re raising money for the Southeastern Guide Dog Organization that day, and people can bid on their favorite puppy products.”
Launched in 2013, the Wilmington Island Farmers Market began as a way to counter the divisiveness and isolation McIncrow saw cropping up in daily life. Originally from Cooperstown, NY where there is a vibrant street market, she knew that locals would bond over fresh produce and family activities.
“I thought, well, we can’t change the world, but we can create a gathering place for our community,” she recalls of hosting that first meeting of interested neighbors in her backyard.
“Now we’re going into our fifth year, a big hurdle. It’s amazing how it’s all come together.”
McIncrow says she received inspiration and valuable advice from former Forsyth Farmers Market executive director Teri Schell, who recently moved to Alabama after helming downtown’s Saturday market for nine years.
“Teri was so generous in sharing her materials and suggestions with me,” says McIncrow. “She really helped me get things started out here on the islands.”
The market’s regular vendors offer plenty of reasons for those without kids or dogs to stop in. As the summer heat wanes, shoppers can expect a cornucopia of organic greens, eggplants, herbs and more from Adam’s Farm and Gardens, grown in nearby Bloomingdale. FFM mainstay Gruber Farms also brings their fresh melons, peppers and produce to WIFM, and Polk’s Fresh Produce always has a full suite of veggies and fruit.
Specialty foods like Alake’s Pecans, farm-raised meats from Georgia Buffalo, local honey from Capital Bee Company and Bootleg Farm’s fresh goat cheese give gourmet cachet, and sustainably-raised blooms from Browns & Hounds Flower Farm brings the beauty of the season to the table.
Artisans like Copper Tree Pottery and KaiNat Natural Body Products make picking out a memorable gift easy, and the Groovy Dudes invite folks to grab a fresh cup of PERC coffee and stay awhile.
“We want people to come and hang out,” says McIncrow. “We built this to become a destination for everybody, families, veterans, seniors, the whole community.”
While the market now technically takes place on Whitemarsh Island, the market founder says there are no plans to change the name.
“What we’re doing is working out, so we’re going to stay the Wilmington Island Farmers Market,” she assures.
“The most important thing is that people have a positive place to come on a Saturday morning.”