RUBONIA -- It was not the typical farmers market offering an array fresh produce Saturday, but residents enjoyed one another's company and organizers said they are hopeful it is only the beginning.
Dozens gathered in front of the old Rubonia Mini Mart and along Bayshore Road Saturday for the first Historical Rubonia Farmers Market, many taking advantage of the various retail items being sold or sampling seafood or barbecue. Fewer than 10 vendors participated with only about half offering food or produce.
LuAnn Topp, known to many as "Ruby Begonia," was still pleased by how the town came together, she said. She bought a fire pit and was looking forward to buy some fish to take home. "It's all about creating awareness because we are so far off the beaten path," Topp said. Topp, 70, said she is optimistic the farmers market will continue to grow.
"I'd like to see some produce and arts and crafts," Topp added.
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Having grown up in St. Peterburg before making Rubonia her home 45 years ago, she regularly attends the farmers market there. While she doesn't expect the Rubonia market will grow as big, she thinks the hidden community in North Manatee County has a lot
"I think Rubonia is Manatee County's best-kept secret," Topp said.
From the minute she first saw Rubonia 45 years ago, she said, she knew she had found her home.
"It's a positive turnout. You have to start somewhere," organizer Derrick Randall said, "I'm very optimistic and look around, everyone is having fun."
The Rubonia native, who now lives in Ruskin, was the driving force behind the farmers market. It is more important than anything, he said, to bring the community together and invite others in to see Rubonia is not closed off.
Randall is hopeful the farmers market, which he intends to hold every other Saturday, will continue to grow in diversity and number of vendors. He is so determined he will bring in the produce himself if needed.
"I would like more of everything," Randall said. "I don't want to put a limitation on it."
Leo and Theresa Scott came from their Ellenton home after reading an advertisement for the farmers market in Rubonia.
"I'm a little disappointed not to see the other vendors," he said.
His wife said she was excited to try some of the soul food.
"I thought it was going to be more like a farmers market," Leo Scott said. "The first thing I was looking for when I got here were the veggie booths."
The couple said they would be willing to come back to the market in the future as it continues to grow.
Will Carr and his girlfriend took the short trip from her Palmetto home to visit the farmer's market. They, too, were somewhat disappointed.
"I was hoping to pick up some produce," she said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.