By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The Ventnor City Farmers Market held its annual volunteer and sponsor recognition luncheon Tuesday, Sept. 13 at Red Room Café. The volunteers and sponsors, who provide funding to ensure the market is a success, and some city officials, dined on fine Italian fare, including gnocci, eggplant parmesan, chicken, salad and home made breads. The desserts included pumpkin cheesecake and tiramisu from Saccer’s Bakery.
Market managers Penni and Andy Starer and Maria Gatta of the Red Room hosted the buffet luncheon.
Andy Starer provided a humorous account of the typical Friday morning at the Farmers Market, which starts at 5:30 a.m. pitching the Old Coots tent where senior citizens dispense free advice for anyone who asks. The second task of the day is when Aversa’s Bakery drops off fresh breads and baked goods around 6 a.m. when it become Starer’s job to shoo away the seagulls.
Next up is the arrival of the Public Works Department, which puts out the bicycle racks, and recycling and trash containers around the parking lot at St. James Church. They open the rest rooms near the beach on Newport Avenue earlier than usual on Friday mornings because a few of the 60-plus vendors need to use the facility before the early bird customers arrive. The helpers, of which there are 27 dedicated volunteers, Penni Starer said, start showing up at 7 a.m. wearing their orange T-shirts to assist vendors in setting up their tents. The Fire Department shows up every week to check the set-up of vendors who use open flames at their tents.
Although the market doesn’t officially start until 8:30 a.m., there are always those a few customers who come early to make sure they can get some of the Red Room’s eggplant parmesan, which is usually an early sell-out.
“By 7:45, Penny is flying around to make sure everyone has what they need,” Andy Starer said, bringing a chuckle from those in attendance.
After a few hours of organized chaos, it’s time to break down.
“The take down crew arrives around 11:30 to clean up,” Andy Starer said. “Then Penni, Maria and I pick up any trash laying around, but we leave the food that has fallen to the ground for the seagulls to feast on. After picking up the lawn signs, I’m home by 1 p.m. and horizontal by 1:30.”
Starer noted that after manning her booth and making pasta fresh, Maria Gatta gets to spend just a few minutes to recover before she’s back at the restaurant setting up for the Friday night crowd.
He thanked the volunteers for their hard work all summer long and the members of the media who provided coverage this year.
“We didn’t call them, but they seem to find us,” he said. “We often hear from people that we have the best farmers market around, not only for the vendors, but because of the atmosphere.”
Rose Mannel is one of the market volunteers and said the market had one of its best years ever.
“I volunteer because I can,” she said. “I’m a retired teacher and although I substitute, it’s not during summer.”
She said her sister Mimi, who is also a volunteer, told her about the volunteer opportunity at the market.
“Summer was hot, but it was delightful. We have so many nice people come every week and they always compliment us on the market. Because we have so many wonderful volunteers, it makes it easier to get things done.”
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