Marysville’s first Mother’s Day Flea Market was in 1976 in conjunction with the city’s celebrations commemorating the nation’s bicentennial. The inaugural event was held on Mother’s Day and drew more than 5000 people to the city. Howard Kessinger, editor of The Marysville Advocate, editorialized the “flea market turned the clock back on three blocks of Main Street to the days when conversation was more important than business and time was something we enjoyed.”
Forty-five years later the market is still held Mother’s Day weekend having evolved from a one-day affair to two. Originally held in the heart of downtown Marysville, the market has now moved to the luscious city park and still boasts thousands in attendance. Changing with the times, the annual festival is now called the Mother’s Day Market.
Having been involved with the market since right after its origin, Sharon Kesinger provides context for its prolonged popularity.
“Marysville was known for its famous Labor Day parades,” Sharon recalls. “Having fallen by the wayside, the town didn’t have any community celebrations until the market came along. The market became the community celebration.”
Although the market is a fundraising tool for the Koester House Museum and Gardens, a place Sharon generously donates her time and talents, she notes the market also builds community - the sentiment her husband, Howard, opined decades earlier.
“Festivals build community,” Sharon says. “You see your friends and neighbors there, and you feel like you are part of something.”
To help build the market community, Sharon knew it was important to recruit new volunteers. While driving to a meeting with her friend, Mary Weickert, she asked her to join the organizing committee.
“She told me all I had to do was answer the vendors’ phone calls and assign them a space,” Mary recalls. Her reminiscence is followed by a pause and then a chuckle. “Well …..”
Even though her commitment was more than anticipated, Mary relied on her experience to develop relationships with the vendors to accomplish the task. The skills she learned while working in her mother’s restaurant in Louisburg, Kan. as a teenager provided the foundation she needed.
“I grew up working with the public,” Mary remembers. “We knew how to deal with people. Mother taught me how to be calm and creative when working with the public.”
Over the years this atmosphere continues to permeate the market. Many vendors have been market staples for decades; new ones are added yearly knowing their wares will be sold to the throngs of shoppers. While sales are important, conversation is still the main focus.
“The market has turned into old-home week,” Mary says. “Families come home for Mother’s Day and then come to the park for the market. You see old friends and make new.”
Every January Sharon and Mary followed their routine to prepare for the coming market. Phone calls were made to vendors, advertisements were placed to attract new sellers, the map was created to mark the spaces for the plethora of merchants. All of this culminated in May when months of careful planning came to fruition.
As the years passed, the two stalwarts knew it was time to share their knowledge with new volunteers. They turned to Allie Argo.
When asked to assist, Allie’s decision was easy. “I am a die-hard junker,” she confidently explains. “My dad, sister-in-law, and I are all big junkers. We have done the Highway 36 garage sales all across the state.”
With her experience attending markets and with her passion for planning, Allie worked alongside Sharon and Mary following their careful guidance while adding her personal flair. Soon Allie was the market go-to with Sharon and Mary still present to assist.
Allie attributes several factors to the market’s continued success: the beauty of the park, the diversity of items for sale, and the variety of customers. Most importantly, however, Allie feels the market’s lure is due to the family atmosphere.
“It’s like any event held in Marysville,” she explains. “The people here are really kind and they want to make connections. That’s what brings people back and that’s what attracts people to come year after year after year.”
This year marks the 45th annual market featuring more than 75 vendors selling antiques and novelties, homemade and craft items, homegrown items, and a wide variety of food vendors. The market is May 8-9 in Marysville’s City Park at 10th and Walnut. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
A carryout chicken barbecue meal will be served Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the northwest corner of the park (7th & Walnut Street). The cost is $12 and includes a half chicken barbecued to perfection by Van Laningham’s Barbecue Aces of Beatrice, Neb., along with baked potato, coleslaw, and a roll. All proceeds from the event benefit the Koester House Museum & Gardens.
Those attending this year’s market will see Mary driving around in her golf cart laughing with vendors while Sharon serves chicken at the barbecue and Allie answers questions in the information booth. They’re working behind the scenes so you can be a part of something. Make sure to place importance on the conversation and enjoy the time.