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Spring Market planned for mid-May near Civic Center

Posted on March 28th, 2023 By:

A festival planned for mid-May aims to bring tourists into town before the usual tourist season, get some mileage out of the under-utilized Civic Center Green and provide a boost for the suddenly homeless Local Makers Gig Harbor group.

It’s set for the day before Mother’s Day, so the Local Makers Spring Market & Festival will also provide an opportunity to get some last-minute gift shopping done.

The festival is planned for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at the Gig Harbor Civic Center Green on Grandview Street. More than 50 vendors, mostly members of the Local Makers group that holds pop-up markets during the summer months, are already committed to participating.

Music, food trucks and art workshops are planned as part of the event. Booth spaces are sold out, but festival organizers are still seeking sponsors. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email [email protected].

Booths for the Local Makers market in front of Harbor General Store on Pioneer Way on July 9, 2022. Closure of Harbor General left the Local Makers without a home, but spurred members to organize a Spring Market set for May 13.

Local Makers

The Local Makers, a collective of home-based artisans and craftspeople, operated pop-up markets over the past couple years, mainly in the summer.

The pop-ups occurred in various locations, but the main venue for Local Makers was Harbor General Store. The pop-up markets were there on select summer Saturdays, and Harbor General offered Makers shelf space on a consignment basis.

That came to an abrupt halt earlier this month, when Harbor General closed its doors. True to their nature, Makers members set out to turn it into a lemons-lemonade situation.

With support from the city of Gig Harbor, the group put together a plan for a Spring Market that they hope will be an annual event.

“We’ve had popups, and now popups are everywhere,” said Local Makers founder Caasi Dickens. “We really want to have something that is quality both for our community and for our makers.”

Creative Endeavors grant

The city of Gig Harbor awarded the Local Makers with a $7,500 Creative Endeavors grant to support the festival, though the festival was not recommended to receive funding by the city’s Arts Commission. 

(Full disclosure: Gig Harbor Now also applied for a Creative Endeavors grant, unsuccessfully; and a Gig Harbor Now contributor, Charlee Glock-Jackson, is the chair of the Arts Commission.)

The Arts Commission typically recommends which projects receive funding from the Creative Endeavors program, and the city council approves the recommendations. In this case, Mayor Tracie Markley and the city council amended the commission’s recommendation. 

The Arts Commission approved $35,000 worth of Creative Endeavors grants, fulfilling the anticipated budget for the grants. It did not award any grant funds to the Local Makers.  

The city subsequently added an additional $15,000 to the pool available for grants, of which $7,500 went to the spring festival. The city also increased grant awards for several other applicants. 

Local Makers “kind of intersect with a lot of things that council has identified in the strategic plan,” City Clerk Josh Stecker told the City Council in a March 16 study session meeting. “They are bringing events and activities into the community. The plan is to grow them into something that will be a tourism-type target. Local maker groups are … really a growing endeavor in cities around the country.” 

The Civic Center Green, aka the lawn in front of Gig Harbor’s city hall, will provide the venue for the Local Makers’ Spring Market.

Arts Commission granted nothing to Spring Market 

Arts commissioners said they opted against awarding Local Makers any of its $14,000 request because they doubted the group could pull off the festival on such a short timeline. Commissioners also expressed discomfort at the prospect of using public funds to support an event intended to be profitable for the home-based small business owners who comprise the Makers. 

The Arts Commission, like other city boards and commissions, is an advisory board. Allocating funds for the Creative Endeavor grants ultimately is the responsibility of the city council.

Still, overriding the recommendation of the Arts Commission is unusual. So is adding more money to the grant program after applicants made their pitches. 

The money came from the city Parks Department operating fund, Stecker told the Arts Commission.

Local Makers made the largest single request of any of the 19 Creative Endeavor applicants, at $14,000. The Arts Commission recommended giving them nothing, before city staff and elected officials intervened and granted $7,500.

“They all (applicants) tailored their asks very respectfully,” Arts Commissioner Colette Smith said during a March 23 meeting with city staff about the unexpected increase in Creative Endeavor grants. “Except for Makers, which made a ridiculously large ask. There’s no other way to say it. For an entity that had no track record for bringing tourism into the city.” 

Local Makers Gig Harbor’s 2023 schedule, including the May 13 Spring Market & Festival.

Spring Market vision 

In responding to questions from arts commissioners, city officials said the Spring Festival would support the city’s goal to get people downtown before the usual tourist season begins in June. Making use of the Civic Center Green, the grassy area in front of the city hall building on Grandview Street, is also a bonus. 

As is supporting the Local Makers, who relied on the now-closed Harbor General Store as a venue.  

Local Makers shares all those goals. They also their event to be more than just a larger version of their usual pop-ups. 

“We really want it to be, not just come and shop and have a look at what we’ve got, we want it to be an interactive community destination that is inviting people to bring their own community spirit,” said Clare Dunis, a member of the Local Makers Group. 

Plans call for do-it-yourself projects at makers’ booths; hands-on workshops with artists; and artist demonstrations, with painters doing works during the festival. Organizers plan to dedicate space for the Mini Makers program, which dedicates booth space to younger craftspeople.

“Hopefully this is annual,” Dickens said. “We want to give people a fun way to kick off summer and spring.”