More than 20 local vendors participated in the inaugural Horry County Council on Aging’s first Crabtree Open Air Market in May, leaving organizers looking forward to two more already-scheduled open air markets.
Live music, food trucks and a face-painting clown made the market a bonafide community gathering and that is just what Horry County Council on Aging Executive Director Elaine Gore wanted.
“Our hope was to see this land utilized and that, in itself, was great to witness. But, all of the support garnered from the vendors and community -- that was the icing on the cake,” Gore said.
The recent Crabtree Open Air Market took place on a sizable piece of land adjacent to the Horry County Council on Aging Distribution Center at 2213 North Main St. in Conway. The agency operated from this location for many years but, with their building being flooded four times, the agency was forced to relocate its administrative offices.
The agency was able to restore the building to its current use with a grant from the Food Lion Corporation, transforming it into a distribution center. It was necessary to get creative as the land housed the agency’s massive 30-foot freezer that had survived hurricanes and associated destruction.
Agency officials say this freezer is indispensable, allowing them to provide essential services for the community. Storing hurricane meals and goods for grocery distribution, meeting the increased food demand during COVID and the ongoing Home Delivered Meal Program are part of the organization’s mission and the group’s desire to keep the land.
The distribution center is a hub of activity, enabling the agency to manage its Home Delivered Meal Program, which is made possible by donations, fundraisers, state, federal and local funding. There are six drivers, 12 routes and 380 people who receive five meals a week.
Conway City Councilman Shane Hubbard stated, “This Home Delivered Meal Program is the lifeblood of the Council on Aging. Seniors, who wouldn’t get the food they need otherwise, gain and that is what the organization is all about.”
The land where the Crabtree Open Air Market took place was once thought not worthy of any investment due to consistent flooding, but the market has given it a new and important purpose. The acreage, lined with trees, served as the ideal venue for the market.
The distribution center and accompanying land are nestled beside the Crabtree Canal and, out of habit, the executives regularly check the canal’s water level. Some buildings on the land were not rebuilt, but an essential part of the agency remains.
“Now we have some beautiful waterfront property for our events and we’re going to make the most of it,” Gore said.
The spirit of the HCCOA is evident in the Crabtree Open Air Market. This isn’t a run-of-the-mill FEMA lot, though. This land is brimming with hope.
It is a place where the community can enjoy fellowship and support local vendors, farmers and artisans, according to agency officials. The proceeds from all of its upcoming events will benefit the HCCOA, its ten senior centers throughout the county and all of its programs providing much-needed services for senior citizens.
The next Crabtree Open Air Market will be June 19 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. The agency hopes to have twice as many vendors on that day and carry on the tradition of live music, food trucks and plenty of family entertainment.
Ice cream, Kona Ice, a dunk tank used to dunk beloved community leaders, raffles and a complimentary tie dye station to tie dye your new Crabtree Open Air Market t-shirts will be some of the welcome additions in June.
There will also be another market recognizing veterans and first responders on Sept. 11 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. For that event, first responders and veterans can have vendor booths at no cost. And, for the Nov. 13 market, nonprofit organizations can secure their booths at no cost.
Each market has a theme and that is to perpetuate the cycle of giving back, coming together and supporting everyone who has generously contributed to the HCCOA, allowing the agency to provide for the county’s seniors.
For more information about these events or to be a vendor, contact Kimberly Smith at (843) 231-1595, Kasie Watson at (843) 602-8817 or visit the Crabtree Open Air Market Facebook page.