There was face-painting, cider-making, popcorn popping, jewelry making, pumpkin painting, basket auctioning, and face stuffing happening throughout Rotary Park in the city’s Back Central neighborhood.
The free four-hour festival, attended by Mayor Patrick Murphy, City Manager Bernie Lynch, Assistant City Manager Adam Baacke, Economic Development Director Theresa Park,City Councilor Marty Lorrey, neighborhood leaders, community farmers and residents, included tons of local food including harvest soup and popcorn, as well as treats from Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus, Sweet Lydia’s and UTEC Fresh Roots.
The lot where the festival will be held was, as recently as last year, an overgrown, ugly eyesore. As part of the City Manager’s 2012 Back Central Neighborhood Initiative, the city partnered with Lydia Sisson and Francey Slater of Mill City Grows to redevelop it into a 9,000-square-foot urban farm.
Today, the space hosts 40 4-foot-by-10-foot raised garden beds, farmed by an ethnic rainbow of community gardeners. Early in the season it was filled with a variety of produce that puts the big-name chain grocery stores to shame: eggplant, corn, beans, cabbage, lettuce, beets, arugula, strawberries, herbs, husk cherries, lemon grass, squash, bok choy, peppers, tomatoes and a variety of herbs and flowers.