Twenty one years ago, civic volunteers Nora Stern and Ellen Dubinsky had an inspiring idea. They organized the “Best of Missouri Market” to raise needed funds for the Missouri Botanical Garden. In those days, it was called Shaw’s Gardens.
The 21st annual event will be held throughout the grounds of the gardens October 5-7. Clearly, this show is recognized as one of the most successful outdoor events annually in St. Louis.
Patch caught up to two full time employees Lynn Kerkemeyer, Maryville, IL and Chelsea Harris, Maplewood, to talk about this annual happening. It is the responsibility of this pair to make sure the show is another big success.
This year’s event runs October 5-7, rain or shine. Friday is a preview night.
Patch: Why don’t you begin by telling us just how this event got started.
Lynn Kerkemeyer: Yes it got started 21 years ago with the idea coming from Nora Stern, still a trustee of the garden and took it forward with her partner in crime Ellen Dubinsky.
This is a wonderful fundraiser for the garden and we are so fortunate to have corporate sponsorship that underwrites the expenses and with the ticket sales that come throughout the days, we are able to support so many other important projects here in St. Louis and around the World.
Patch: Let me guess, I won’t come away from here hungry or not entertained.
Harris: Right, there are food vendors spread throughout the grounds with samples and a food court. We have several local wineries selling by the glass and the bottle.
Kerkemeyer: Last year for our 20th annual celebration we started the Friday night preview and we are doing that again this year.
Our members love it, open 6-9 p.m. and available to the public. During the day, we have member preview hours early in the morning. We are open 9-5 both days.
Patch: I imagine you get very large crowds.
Harris: We do. We get more than 26,000 over the weekend, a record last year.
Kerkemeyer: Lucky for us, we have several off-sight parking lots and we run regular shuttle buses back and forth. Generally, its just 15 minutes between shuttles so people don’t have to walk with their many purchases.
Patch: When Henry Shaw set up the gardens, it was way out in the country.
Kerkemeyer: That works well because this is a tribute to small businesses and farm products and harkens back to our founding and our heritage.
Patch: October is a great month weather wise for this kind of event.
Harris: Definitely. Usually the weather is pretty amazing for the market and we look forward to that.
Kerkemeyer: The timing is all based on the harvest and the fall time of the year. We really stay away from the holiday type of event. It is more the artisan booths. Still people say they do 70 percent of their holiday shopping at Missouri Market.
Patch: Do you get a steady stream of returning visitors.
Kerkemeyer: Absolutely. We have one couple who are determined to be the first visitors through the gate. We actually have people lined up at 6 o’clock in the morning waiting to get in. The line wraps around the front of the building and all the way around the back parking lot.
Patch: Do you offer music.
Harris: We do. We have bands that are mostly blue grass, the kinds of music to fit into the theme of a fall festival.
Harris: We have a kids area for petting with Lamas and Alpacas and kids activities. It is very family oriented.
Kerkemeyer: You should see the decorated pumpkins lined up and Home Depot comes to the garden every year with a kids activity and Mercy Hospital is bringing a photo booth this year.
Tomorrow, the two go into great detail what kinds of items will be on sale from the 120 participating vendors.