By C.J. Barbre

The Lindsay Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors held its last meeting of 2004 on Tuesday, Dec. 14 in the conference room at Sierra Vista Plaza.

New board members present were Brian Watson of State Farm Insurance, Kirk Ingoldsby with Ingoldsby's Nursery and Floral, and Suzi Picaso, proprietor of Picaso's Passion.

Retiring President Paul Gottschall lead the meeting off with a reading of chamber's mission statement, "to assume a leadership role in improving the overall economic climate for members through the implementation of programs and services that stimulate business growth and enhance the quality of life in the Lindsay area."

The Friday Night Farmers' Market, which was started last April at Sweet Brier Plaza, has been the chamber's major focus this year and has proved to be resoundingly successful.

"Market Manager" Virginia Loya, also called the "Events Coordinator" (an independent contractor), was asked to give an update. Loya said the market has slowed down a little, but they rented all of the pop-ups last week. The pop-ups are required over booths for aesthetic and weather purposes. There are 226 registered vendors to date.

"I would like to see a key section for produce," board member Dr. Bob Chiurazzi said. "I know right now it's hard. Maybe we could advertise in the Gazette and give them [produce people] a credit. Also it would be nice for artists to display."

Gottschall noted that almost all of the pop-ups were being rented.

Garzelli mentioned that the city is going to start tearing up all the sidewalks downtown in the not too distant future.

"I'm just saying I want to give local craftsmen and produce people preference," Chiurazzi replied.

"I think the success of this is no doubt being published far and wide. I'm sure most of us have been to the farmers' market in San Luis Obispo. We could use that as a model," Brian Watson said.

For folks who don't get over to the coast on Thursday evenings, Frommer's California 2004 guidebook says, "If you're lucky enough to be in town [San Luis Obispo] on a Thursday, take an evening stroll down Higuera Street, when the county's largest weekly street fair fills four downtown city blocks. You'll find much more here than fresh-picked produce - there's an ever-changing array of street entertainment, open-pit barbecues, food stands, and market stalls selling fresh flowers, cider, and other seasonal goodies. Surrounding stores stay open until 9 p.m." It sounds a bit like Lindsay, only with shorter hours, from 6-9 p.m. instead of 2:30-9:30 p.m.

Board member Debbie Cahill with Plug Grip, asked if there was any more talk of changing the name to "Street Fair," that in fact there had been a sign out at Highway 65 that called it a "Farmers' Market and Street Fair" that has been taken down.

"It's not a true farmers' market" Garzelli observed. But he said turnout was good, and has picked up since football season. "My officers said there were 2,000 [people out] last Friday. I didn't expect it to stay through the winter."

Most people didn't. Virginia Loya seemed to have her fingers crossed when she said they had been favored with no rain on Fridays so far. And they were bravely going ahead with plans for a New Year's Eve dance. She estimated attendance, she hoped, would be between 1,500 and 2,000 souls. They will be serving beer and hot punch with liquor. The area will be fenced in and six security guards will be on duty. Loya said she expected vendors to be packing up by 9:30 p.m. Dragon Musical will perform from 9:30-12:30 p.m. There will be a $10 admission fee.

Gottschall said the success of the farmers' market and contiguous activities at Sweet Brier Plaza is "almost a Cinderella story. I am totally in awe and a lot of credit goes to Virginia and for the city's cooperation.

In closing Gottschall thanked his "incredible team." Chiurazzi in turned complemented Gottschall for his "strong leadership. We were close to bankruptcy and you pulled us through. New activity survived through the hot summer and cold winter and now with new sidewalks and a library and Wellness Center . . ."

"We were going through droughts here, when it looked like the town was ready to dry up and blow away. Now it just looks so nice - a place you want to spend time. I think people are looking at Lindsay in a different light," Cahill said.

"I think Lindsay is looking ahead and there is no city around, big or small, with a better plan than Lindsay," Mann said.

"If people are sitting around saying 'look at how good this is,' I don't think we've even started. We will blow your socks off!" Blue concluded.

The next meeting of the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce Board is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 4. For more information contact Sharon Dimmitt at 562-4929.

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