With less than three weeks left in Central Florida we wanted to centrally position ourselves to see friends and family, attend markets, and rein in costs as much as feasible. In support of that we shifted from the fantastic Wekiwa Springs State Park to Lake Monroe County Park about a dozen miles further north. At less than $17 a night all in, it is significantly cheaper than the area state parks, particularly when you add in the Reserve America fees.
While Lake Monroe doesn’t have the crystal clear spring or immediate lake front camping of our favorite area spots, it has large power and water sites in the woods near a lake. The county undertook a significant renovation of the electrical and water connections at the park during the last year, which has significantly improved things for most sites, i.e., previously about half of them had one or both connections on the “wrong” side for most RVs, necessitating either extra long hoses and/or cables, or pulling in front first. Since the reno, most of the sites have full 50 amp and water on the correct side, and the remaining sites are designated for tent camping only with just a 20 amp traditional plug in available.
The park has a boat ramp and dock, private toilet/shower rooms, group camping areas, pavilions, and direct access to a nice bike path running up to Gemini Springs and beyond.
We had a week long stay there, during which we fit in five markets! That’s almost like having a job, but we are taking advantage of being in an area where we have lots of vending options, knowing that come January we might not. We started with our favorite event in the area, Deland’s Friday night Artisan Alley Farmers Market. Aside from being pretty good for us the one time we attended last year and last week, we enjoy the ambiance, cooler evening environment, and energetic groups of liquored up people wandering through. This week did not disappoint.
If there is one down side to this event it is the odd method of assigning spots to those that have not yet “earned” a permanent site. Though the market does not technically start until 6 PM, if you want a spot you need to arrive and sign in with the manager before 5 (ideally 4:30 if you want to be assured of a good spot) and then wait until she starts handing them out at 5:15 by order of sign up, taking a few minutes to discuss with each person their requirements and then walk them to their appointed place. As this is going on, the permanent vendors are either already there making sales or leisurely showing up to set up once the street is closed off.
Once you have managed to luck into being assigned the same spot three times in a row, you “inherit” it and become a permanent vendor. This can, we are told, take months, and we don’t anticipate ever getting there. The net result for us is that what would be a three hour event with maybe half an hour on each end for set up and take down turns into a 5 hour affair, though we make the best of things with a beer at Persimmon Hollow while we wait for assignment time.
I mentioned in our Wekiwa Springs post that we were not happy with our Saturday Sanford market; though we sell OK, it is too long, has too many other overlapping vendors, and doesn’t have a nice “vibe.” After the October 28 event, we committed to doing the Lake Mary event instead. This involved a bit of risk and hassle: It is run directly by Seminole County’s Parks & Rec Department, and they have fairly rigid licensing requirements, non-refundable application fees, and up to two weeks to gain approval.
Encouraged by some of the vendors at our Sunday Sweetwater-Wekiva market, we took the chance, paid for the $25 county business receipt, paid the $25 application fee, and were fortunate enough to get approved within days for the first Saturday in November. The vendor fee is $25 per event for us non-regulars, so our total commitment before even setting up was $75. We need not have worried: we had a great day easily exceeding our investment. The manager restricts excessive duplication of vendor types, so we won’t have the option of attending every week, but that day we locked in three more Saturdays between then and Christmas, working around our planned three weeks in SE and SW Florida.
Sunday morning we headed back to Sweetwater-Wekiva for the market, and though foot traffic was quite light (several of the other vendors reported it as one of their worst sales day, with one irate seller suggesting she would not be back without some sort of market improvement) we had our best day of the handful of times we have attended this event. Go figure.
Monday evening we tried a new one: Audubon Park Community Market in Winter Park. Our friend Chris from the Wekiva event turned us on to it, suggesting it had an environment that would probably work for our stuff. We got last minute approval from the market manager and headed down to set up. One of the aspects of this event that makes it particularly convenient is that if you can get by with 10′ of table space instead of an entire tent area, they supply the tent and lighting. For us this is fantastic, because our brand new tent from Caravan Canopy is a monster that barely fits in our trusty tracker once all the other items are stowed. The vendor fee is dirt cheap, and was even waived for our first attendance.
The market itself has a very progressive, neo-hippy sort of vibe, with damn near every food or produce item claiming organic, cage-free, fair trade, vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO status, with price points to match such rigorous production. E.g., “raw” milk for $10 a gallon. Fortunately, the Empanada man adhered to no such requiremens, and his product was quite tasty and affordable. We did pretty well at the market; not great but enough to justify coming. We are not sure when we will be able to return since they have a glut of crafters and artisans such that those types of sellers are spread out, slotted for one day in every four, and our travel schedule might preclude even that.
The next day Rosemarie headed back to Virginia for another visit with Linda and the extended family, including an overnight trip to Shenandoah National Park. I stayed with the cat and the rig, hung out with Dad and Marcia a couple of evenings, and spent one with son Jackson and his friends for game night (Dungeons and Dragons, dontcha know, something I haven’t played in 30 years) and prepped to fly solo on a Thursday morning market.
Thursday’s event, “The Springs Market” is run by our Sweetwater-Wekiva manager, Shayna, and is located about two miles down the road from that market. Like the Sunday one, it does not get a lot of foot traffic, relying on word of mouth, drive by pull ins, and the employee shoppers from the nearby strip mall and business parks. We did tolerably well, again enough to justify coming, plus I got familiar with our new monster canopy’s set up process. It may be nearly twice as heavy as our old cheap thing, but it sets up easier and is far sturdier.
So we are off to a great start in November, on track to be well under budget despite a few significant purchases, and having enjoyed a few final days at Wekiwa Springs and a beautiful week at Lake Monroe. Next up: with limited state and county park weekend availability, we try out a new private RV Resort in the region.