LARGO — Tanya Pistillo is a one-woman band who's beating the drum for a monthly community market in downtown Largo.
The city used to organize such a market in downtown's Ulmer Park on West Bay Drive. Now Pistillo is doing it all by herself, and she's seeking more support from the city.
"I realized there is a sense of disconnection here in our community," Pistillo said. "I know one thing as an artist: What brings people together is markets and festivals and cultural events — different things that have food, that have art, that have people.
She founded the Largo Second Saturday Market, which has grown from five vendors last fall to about 20 vendors now. It's held on the second Saturday of every month at Ulmer Park, so the next one is this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The most recent market, on Feb. 8, featured live music, a row of food trucks, and booths selling arts and crafts, local raw honey, homemade jams, specialty soaps, silver and leather bracelets, and handmade dog toys, among other things.
There's a lack of produce vendors at this point, so it's more of an arts and crafts market with hot food, rather than a farmers market.
"There's nothing like this in Largo," said vendor Lisa Craig. "I think Largo needs it."
"I would like to see us have more vendors and more awareness in the community that we're here," added vendor Kat Klingerman.
Pistillo has appeared repeatedly before the Largo City Commission to ask for more city backing. The monthly market is not breaking even because of the fees it must pay to the city to use Ulmer Park, which is a small park with a gazebo.
She's asking the city to waive some fees. Putting on the market costs about $1,000 each time because of the cost of renting the park and portable toilets, a special event permit, a banner fee, a park cleanup fee, a charge to deliver and retrieve a Dumpster, and a utility fee if vendors need electricity.
Customers have asked for fresh fruit and vegetables, but the market would probably have to be a weekly event to attract produce vendors, she added.
Largo city commissioners are considering the issue. Mayor Pat Gerard asked Largo staffers to look into how other cities in the area are supporting such markets.
City Manager Mac Craig said his staff was working with Pistillo to keep the market going.
"We think we can get there," Craig said. "We think we can get it done."
Pistillo is vowing to push ahead with the market, which will also be held on April 12 and May 10.
"Largo's got something to offer besides strip malls and gas stations," she said. "There's a lot of talent here, there's a lot of good food, there's a lot of really great people. But we become complacent because we just drive and go through.
"The community is actually here, wanting to thrive and not knowing what to do, how to do it, or even where to go to find things that are going on in Largo."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.