Sunny skies welcome opening of Saturday markets in downtown Eugene

Content: Register Guard

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Tulips, beets, fresh produce, lemonade, handmade dream catchers and fresh-brewed coffee were a few of the many goods available to the crowds that flocked to the downtown Park Blocks for the first day of the 47th annual Eugene Saturday Market and Lane County Farmers Market.

Coupled with a side of sunshine and near 70-degree weather, both markets seemed to be off to a good start with children, parents, grandparents, college students and everyone in between meandering from booth to booth, loading up their reusable bags with all they could carry.

The Eugene Saturday Market, which has been taking place in downtown Eugene since 1970, featured a number of longtime participants and several new vendors Saturday.

The market says it draws between 3,000 and 5,000 people to the downtown Park Blocks each Saturday. About 700 different vendors sell at the market over the course of the season — about 200 to 300 of them at a time.

The Lane County Farmers Market operates simultaneously with the Saturday Market, across the street on the half block bounded by Eighth Avenue and Oak and Park streets. The farmers’ market operates independently from the Saturday Market, offering fresh produce, flower bouquets, honey, jams, berries, homemade baked goods and more.

On the Saturday side of the market, 34-year-old Steven Barnes, a reptile farmer and artist from Springfield was selling black and white oil-based paintings — with dead flies glued to them.

Barnes, who goes by the pseudonym Sharden Killmore, hung his paintings from a small booth set up on S. Park Street and spoke of his insect art.

“I wanted my art to be recognizable and consistent,” Barnes said. “I think you have to be working with (the flies) to see (the importance of) it and to incorporate them into art. They tell a story of death and reincarnation, they resonate with people.”

Barnes said his work as a reptile farmer influenced his insect art, as he breeds bugs to feed to the reptiles.

But collecting flies is a process, Barnes said.

First, Barnes places dead fish in a big plastic tub outside. Then, the flies lay eggs, which hatch within about 72 hours.

“Once the tub starts buzzing you know they’ve hatched,” Barnes said.

After the tub comes alive, Barnes places it in a large freezer until the tub stops buzzing.

“They’re part of the whole cycle of death,” Barnes said. “So I don’t feel bad including them in it.”

Barnes said he then carefully glues the flies to his paintings with tweezers.

Saturday was the first time Barnes had been a vendor at the market, but said it was going well.

“So far a lot of people have stopped and asked a lot of questions,” Barnes said. “I haven’t sold anything yet but people seem fascinated.”

Other booths at both the markets were a little more traditional.

Over on the farmers’ market side of the park, Philip Smith, a 62-year-old bee farmer, said he’s been a vendor at the Lane County Farmers Market off and on since the ’90s.

“I got my first bee hives when I was 17,” Smith said.

Smith was selling jars of honey, honey combs and consumable pollen to ward off allergies.

“It’s been a good Saturday so far,” Smith said. “I have some good, steady, devoted customers.”

Richard Wilen of Hayhurst Valley Organic Farm and Nursery in Yoncalla, said over the course of the summer he would sell “everything from artichokes to zucchini, A to Z.”

“We have 40-plus varietals of tomatoes and peppers, a wide variety of broccoli and cabbage and seven kinds of kale,” Wilen said.

Wilen, who’s been selling organic produce in the same spot for 25 consecutive years, said when the market season kicks of with a sunny day he knows it’s going to be a good year.

“Today is great, the sun is fantastic, and it’s important for this market to start sunny,” Wilen said. “There’s nothing better.”

Follow Alisha on Twitter @alisharoemeling. Email [email protected] .