The opening day for Haverhill's Farmers Market met and exceeded organizers' expectations with 400 customers — a sizable increase in attendance over last year.
"We had about 300 on our first day last year," said organizer Jeff Grassie, official census taker for Team Haverhill's revitalization effort.
It's summer time, and the fresh produce went on sale at Haverhill's Farmer's Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as it will every Saturday until October 30, at GAR Park, 80 Main St., where it intersects Bailey Boulevard.
And the living was easy as Paul Prue on acoustic guitar and Mark Hayden on amplified mouth harp played a mix of blues, jazz and some instrumentals.
The crowd walked the stalls and bought baked goods, prints and photographs, pottery, fresh vegetables, blueberry pies, Swiss Chocolate or handmade vegetable based soaps.
Some sat with cold drinks on the grass in the shade of the trees and watched the wide river in the distance slide through the misty humid weather on a summer's Saturday morning.
"We didn't do the kids' thing today," said Team Haverhill organizer Lisa Marzilli, "because it's opening day, and we didn't want to overwhelm everyone with everything all at once."
"Next week, we will have the UMass Lowell Chapter of the American Meteorological Society help us present Weather Day," Marzilli said.
The university group will display and explain the uses of some weather instruments. They will explain simple weather prediction, and children will receive free coloring books as part of a weather-related activity.
Simone Farm's Chris Simone said he has returned for a second season. Simone Farm runs a year-round business on 65 acres near the river where they have been for about four generations.
"We did well last year, and hope to do as well, again, this year. This market was good for us," Simone said.
"It's all about community and meeting with people," said a busy Stephanie Lesiczka of Wally's Farm from Corliss Hill Road.
Lesiczka's farm stand had a steady stream of customers, some so regular that she knew them by their first names.
Kate Martin, Team Haverhill's lead organizer for the revitalized farmers market, pointed out that patrons can park diagonally on the same side of the street as the market's stalls, "to make it easier for people to get in and out, and that allows more people to park at one time," she said.
Martin explained that Team Haverhill has permission from the City Council to run the market on Saturdays within the dates given, and that they will allow the diagonal parking for that event.
On Saturday, the market filled quickly and people stood in lines at several farmers' stalls and other vendors.
Thirteen-year-old Jessica Sarro, a student at the Dr. Paul Nettle School in Haverhill, owns and runs J. Sarro prints of Haverhill, which specializes in notecards, magnets and prints.
For the first day of the market, she displayed photography for sale.
While some vendors like Jessica added something creative to the market, others tried their hands at selling goods they made at home.
Lovena Hardwood, a native Hawaiian who runs East Coast Tropics, developed vegetable-based soaps that she makes at home. "I come from Hawaii, and the climate change, here, gave me dry skin, so I tried some soap formulas of my own and they worked so I started selling them, and it has been interesting," she said.
The Fletcher's Farm produce stand run by Poli Jutras replenished its supply of vegetables several times to keep up with the retail traffic that flowed through the market's stalls along the boulevard.
"We're still new to some of this but we're doing well, and happy with the way it's working out for us," Jutras said.
A new vendor, Millvale Studio and Gallery at 129 Millvale Road in Haverhill, displayed plants and small pieces of pottery, and two new family additions, the twins Abel and Eliza Smith, 6 months old and already at work in their grandparents' business.
"We are pleased with the return we got today. I sold some of my pottery and other wares, and I'd come back again. This market is a nice way to make the local community aware of local craftsmen and studios like mine," owner Diane Smith said.
The market will continue every Saturday until the last Saturday in October at the same address. It may vary in size and produce available, especially as the season wears on, and the farms have less variety to offer from their reduced inventories.