Chaffee Crossing opens Farmers Market season May 13

Chaffee Crossing opens Farmers Market season May 13

“It began as a way to allow entrepreneurs who started home-based businesses during the pandemic an outlet and opportunity to grow,” says Lorie Robertson, director of marketing for Chaffee Crossing. “Following the pandemic, people were anxious to get out and socialize again. This has been a good time to start a festival of this nature for the Fort Smith region. [And] Chaffee Crossing is the natural place to do it.”

Robertson is talking about the Chaffee Crossing Farmers & Artisans Market, which opens for its third season May 13. It started with 15 vendors in May 2021 and grew to more than 160 by October 2022 — and she already has more than 130 signed up for this year.

“Applications are still coming in,” she marvels. “The number of farmers has increased this year. We have a berry farmer from Mountainburg that plans to bring strawberries, blackberries and blueberries May-July. There are several others coming from all over the region, including eastern Oklahoma.

“Vendors will be selling farm produce, eggs, berries, farm byproducts such as soaps and lotions, jams, jellies, original art, designs and creations,” she goes on. “Food truck vendors will range from homemade papusas and tamales to barbecue, hot dogs, nachos, aguas frescas, snowcones, coffee (hot and iced products), and much, much more.”

Although every Chaffee Crossing market is a festival, the first market of the season will be something new.

“We have a special theme that came about through a mentoring program with two University of Arkansas at Fort Smith students,” Robertson explains. “For their community leadership class, they wanted to host a Hispanic cultural festival to highlight the Hispanic community.

“Consequently we have two local Spanish music bands that will be playing from 9 to 11 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m.,” she goes on. “Of course there will be authentic Hispanic food vendors, pinatas for the kids to break — 11 a.m. in parking lot No. 2 by the big tree — and other activities. It’s our first time to host a cultural festival, and there have been a lot of lessons learned. But if it is as well received as we anticipate, we will consider other cultural festivals in the future.”

A new work of art will also be revealed May 13. “IMPACT AREA” was created by local muralist Bryan Alexis, a graphic design professor at UAFS.

“He was inspired by photos and maps in the Museum of Chaffee History,” Robertson says. “The title of the piece and the design are in honor of the thousands of men, women and children whose lives have been impacted by Fort Chaffee since it opened in 1942.”

Solders, civilians, refugees and evacuees are represented in the design, she says.

“The mural is painted on a former prison guard shack that was relocated to the intersection of Taylor Avenue and Fort Chaffee Boulevard in 2016. In 2022, a rock wall that used to be located at the Gate No. 5 entrance to Fort Chaffee was relocated stone by stone and rebuilt in front of the guard shack. This is now the grand entrance into the Chaffee Crossing Historic and Entertainment District.”

Perhaps the best news about the Chaffee Crossing Farmers & Artisans Market is that plans are in place to make sure it continues after the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority public trust is disbanded.

“Vendors and community volunteers are taking ownership of the market,” Robertson says. “Their contributions will help make it sustainable for the future when FCRA no longer exists.

“As new business spaces open in The Barracks at Chaffee, The Warehouse at Chaffee and surrounding developments, we anticipate that this market will grow exponentially,” she enthuses. “Later this year, a distillery, a winery, a cidery and coffee businesses will be opening in the Chaffee Crossing Historic and Entertainment District, so that will naturally help the market activities spread out over a larger area. It is a very exciting time in this part of Fort Smith and western Arkansas.”


Chaffee Crossing Farmers & Artisans Market

WHEN — 8 a.m.-2 p.m. May 13, June 10, July 8, Aug. 12, Sept. 9 & Oct. 14

WHERE — Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith

COST — Free


BONUS — The Chaffee Crossing Barbershop Museum and the Museum of Chaffee History will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 13, and admission is always free.

Categories: Family Friendly