Hot Springs Market Illustrates Small Town America

Norman Rockwell, the artist who often captured small towns and countryside in his magazine adorning photographs, would have loved the Hot Springs Farmers Market.

It is simply a small town in America in the flesh.

A small town urban park lined with spacious shade trees, a large open lawn with sprinklers for the kids and ‘grown up kids’ trying to beat the heat on a hot Montana summer day.

And, the star(s) of the show, the locals selling their wares, ranging from farm-fresh eggs to herbs and a wide variety of arts and crafts.

Rockwell reportedly found a stage ready for Life magazine’s next cover in full bloom at Hot Springs City Park.

In its first year of operation since the pandemic, the market is the result of a group of six people who came together to find an activity that would bring people together in the area and hopefully attract summer tourists who visit the hot springs and area campgrounds.

“This is the first year for this market in a few years,” said co-organizer LaDonna Vollmer, a resident of the small spa/resort town. “We brought together six people hoping to provide an outlet for local people to gather and a farmers market seemed like a great idea.”

As a result, the newly created farmers’ market set up tents and tables in the city park from June 1. They are open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or “1 p.m.” according to Vollmer, and will meet every Saturday through September. Plans are underway to create an indoor version of the market on a once-a-month Saturday morning in the local Grange.

“After the last two years (with co-video related slowdowns and shutdowns), people were so hungry to get out there and do things,” she said. “Local people seem to really like it, hopefully we’re here for good.”

Sellers who are usually among teenagers only pay $5 for a place to sell their wares. One such vendor is Laurie Cowhig, a farmer from the Camas Prairie area who sells farm-fresh eggs, including several types of chicken eggs and also duck eggs.

“These farm-fresh produce is so much better than store-bought,” she said. “It’s a good place to come and be part of this gathering.”

And on busy summer days, the many tourists passing through Hot Springs often stop and browse the many products for sale.

“We saw this cool little park and the people gathering there and had to stop,” said Oklahoma tourist Deborah Parks. “Everyone seems so friendly here and the scene with the shade trees is just amazing.”

And despite the smoke from the forest fires looming on the horizon and a summer sun warming by the hour, locals and tourists alike have taken the time to take shelter in the shade and make a little shopping in a small town.

“That’s what we like in America,” Parks said. “Cities are one thing, but getting off the main roads and driving through towns like this is what we love to do.”

The laughter of a group of children running through a nearby lawn sprinkler while blowing soap bubbles said it all. And it was supported by a local supplier.

“People were looking for a way to come back (from the last two years),” he said. “It’s also hard to find fresh food these days. People want to drink fresh goat’s milk and eat fresh cheese like we sell. Once people try these fresh foods, they cannot go back to what is often sold in stores. And perhaps best of all, there’s a good community spirit here and it’s good to bring people together.

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