JEFFERSON - Greene County and the community of Jefferson officially kicked off the spring and summer tourism season Saturday with the annual Spring Into Greene lawn and garden show event.
"This is our big kickoff to spring," said Ken Paxton, director of the Greene County Chamber & Development. "It's a good way to get outside and get people thinking about starting their gardens and outdoor projects."
Spring Into Greene has been held for a number of years, Paxton said, but this year marked the first time the event was held outdoors on the courthouse lawn.
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson
Angie Pedersen working on carving a handmade wooden spoon in the Raccoon River Artisan Colony.
Despite overcast skies and a chill in the air, the outdoor event was still well-received.
"We really lucked out today," said Paxton. "It's not the best weather, but we still had a great turnout."
Around 45 local vendors offering everything from homemade baked goods to lawn ornaments and even shelter cats available for adoption were on hand.
"These are mostly all of our local vendors," he said.
"The Chamber sponsors this event, but it's really the merchants that make it possible," said Barb Walker events and tourism coordinator with Greene County Chamber & Development.
One booth that was particularly popular was the John 15 Vineyard, of Scranton. Dean and Nancy Rogers, owners of the vineyard, spent the day on the courthouse lawn offering up samples of their warm mulled grape cider as well as grape pies, cookies and jam for sale. Nancy Rogers said Spring Into Greene was their kickoff to the farmers market, which they have a booth at each summer.
"We decided to try something different," Rogers said. "We've been coming out to this and the summer farmers market for a couple of years with our products, but it took seven or eight years of waiting to have a crop and deciding what we were going to do with it. A lot of the vineyards specialize in wine, but we decided to try just about anything else you can think of; juice, cider, jam, pies, cookies."
Rogers said she was pleased with the success of both the event and her sales for the day.
"The crowd has been very good," she said. "There has been a great variety of vendors today and we've been happy with our sales."
Paxton said the event was just the beginning of what is expected to be a busy summer of festivals and events in Jefferson.
"This is the kickoff to a busy season," he said. "This will lead us into the bicycle event in May and the Bell Tower Festival in June."
Just down the street from Spring Into Greene, the Raccoon River Artisan Colony also kicked off its first full season. Owners Robby and Angie Pedersen opened the colony, located in an old lumberyard building restored to be an 1870s furniture shop, theater, and general store, last year. The upper level of the colony building features several stalls were area craftsmen, artisans and antique dealers can offer their goods for a portion of their sales.
"We're not doing rent," Robby Pedersen said. "It's just on a consignment basis; we lend out the 10 by 20 stalls to people who make things and they can be here for a portion of their sales."
The vendor stalls feature everything from stained glass to handmade woodcarvings.
Roscoe Richardson is one of the artisans who has a stall in the colony.
"We visited during a family reunion in Jefferson last year," Richardson said. "This place really had an impact on me. The next thing I knew I was moving here to Jefferson from Florida to become an apprentice."
Robby Pedersen is an 1870s-era furniture maker by trade, and spent several years creating wood chairs, tables and other furnishings at Living History Farms in Des Moines before starting the colony and shop in Jefferson.
"I was the furniture maker at Living History Farms for 10 years," he said. "Everything we make here is with 1870s tools. We chop the trees with an axe, and hand saw all of the boards. It had to exist in 1875 for us to use it."
One of the main purposes of starting the colony was to attract people to the area, Robby Pedersen said.
"I still feel like we're a pretty well-kept secret," he said. "We built this for the sole purpose of getting people here. Jefferson is all about tourism, and they have been very good to us."
The artisan colony will feature a different live display by artisans each weekend in May through October, Angie Pedersen said. The furniture shop is open Tuesday through Saturday year round.
"We just opened last summer," she said. "We are looking forward to our first full season. We're always going to try to have something a little different."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or Emilie@messengernews.net