Market day is special

Every week, a couple of thousand people flock downtown to shop at Saturday Market on the River. And Rusty and Julia Griffin are happy to see them.

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An artist's rendition of the market is for sale by a vendor.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
An artist's rendition of the market is for sale by a vendor.

"We love it down here. It's the biggest part of our business," Julia said, explaining their business, Griffin's Nursery, is open on Mike Padgett Highway all week. On Saturdays, they set up at Riverwalk Augusta. "We do in one day here what we do the entire week at the nursery."

In addition to the nursery's plants, shoppers enjoy specialty goods from about 50 other vendors, including handmade and estate jewelry, homemade candy, locally raised meat, organic salves and dog treats, gourmet coffees, rare medicinal herbs, handmade soap, local honey and fresh produce.

"There's so much diversity in what you can see and buy. It's fun," said Pat Cassidy, of Spartanburg, S.C.

Out-of-town visitors can instantly discover the local flair of a city by visiting the market, said Market Director Brooke Buxton. The market started in 2005 and has doubled in attendance and vendors in the past year.

It begins every April after the Masters Tournament and lasts through the end of October. It is run by a private company, and the city's only involvement is providing the use of the plaza at Eighth and Reynolds streets. This year, the market has expanded onto the riverwalk itself.

"We live in Evans, so it brings us downtown," Debbie Minor said. "I like it, and I'd rather support local people than buy tomatoes from Chile."

Buxton said the market has partnered with Garden City Jazz for live entertainment each week. Jazz musicians perform at each end of the market -- on the river stage and under a shade tree. And they are working to increase the presence of local artists. Currently, artists are able to exhibit their works through Verge, she said.

The market also has space for pet adoption agencies.

"We love the market. We've been regulars for three or four years and we come every week," Marie Beard said. "It has a lot of interesting things. I hope they keep the music."

"She loves the plants and shopping, and I love the food," her husband, Anthony, added.

Even though he attends every week, Anthony said he doesn't get bored with the choices of food vendors, which last week included baklava, teriyaki chicken kabobs, breakfast sandwiches, sausage dogs, chicken strips, gourmet coffees, quiche, gyro wraps and pastries.

Cooling off in the water fountain kept many children busy while their parents shopped. They also could get their faces painted and unique animals from a balloon artist.

"It's my first time, but I want to come back tomorrow," Poetry Fraley, 9, said as she got a pink, glittery kitten painted on her cheek.

Saturday Market on the River is from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information, call (706) 627-0128.

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