PHOTO STORY: Inaugural spring market draws visitors, vendors from surrounding areas
NILES – Vendors from around the region, featuring unique offerings such as boutique clothing, hand-made masks, headbands, cosmetics and even skateboards flocked to the Four Flags Area Apple Festival Grounds to be a part of the organization’s first spring market.
With COVID-19 protocols in place similar to those the Four Flags Area Apple Festival Harvest Market used during the previous fall market, booths had extra space between them, and there were no tables or seating provided. Still, attendees enjoyed food picnic style in the warmer weather on the grounds.
Touring the grounds during the spring market were the Apple Festival’s Senior King, Bruce Seyer, and Senior Queen, Denise Seyer. The two retained their crowns from the 2019 Apple Festival event, as the 2020 event was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’re representing Niles, the community, the people in Niles and the surrounding areas,” Denise said.
The two do more than represent the community, however. They enjoy telling their story of how they both came together after years apart.
Denise and Bruce grew up in the same neighborhood, and went to school together. Bruce graduated from Niles High School in 1965, and Denise followed in 1966. Their reign as Apple Festival royalty was not as simple, however.
“In high school, I was a junior, and she was a sophomore. She would say ‘hi’ to me in high school every single day,” Bruce said. “I knew her brother, and she had a crush on me in high school.”
Years later, after both Bruce and Denise’s spouses passed away, they reconnected.
“Five years ago, we reconnected in church and fell in love,” Bruce said. “I always tell people to never give up on life.”
On May 20, the two will have been married for four years.
Prior to the event, Four Flags Area Apple Festival Vice President Abby Zeider said the spring market had attracted 70 vendors and 13 food trucks.
One of the food trucks was Rum Sweets, a Niles based mobile bakery, which opened in December 2020.
“We have had great support from people in the area,” said Rum Sweets co-owner Shayne Odle.
While the mobile bakery has set up at area businesses regularly, the festival marked its first large event.
“The flow has been great. People have been coming from Mishawaka and South Bend,” Odle said.
Down the row from the food in the vendor section of the market, Urban Streetwear, from Elkhart, was set up with apparel and skateboards on display. Owners Chris and Sami Beckham wanted to participate in spring market to network with other businesses.
The company, in its third year, has stayed busy throughout the pandemic.
“Skateboarding [business] is up 600 percent from 2019,” Chris said. “What we lost in screen printing [apparel], which was all bars and restaurants, we picked up in skateboarding. It’s been a shift. I’m in the process of getting all of my T-shirt customers back.”
The flux in the market the Beckhams have seen will continue keep them busy, they said.
“Last year was a record-breaking year for skateboarding,” Chris said.
SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — As of Monday, Berrien County reported 13,662 COVID-19 cases and 259 deaths, according to the Michigan Department... read more