Bartow Hops into Spring with Spring Fling 2021
by James Coulter
What tastes better than juicy, tender steak? How about meat that has been tenderized in a flavorful vinegar marinade? Whether you prefer mild herbs and spices or wild jalapeno, the infused gourmet vinegar of Vinegar Vibes is sure to add a kick to your meal.
Vinegar Vibes was created by the late husband of Karmon Stevens. He loved to grill, and he loved to marinate his meat in vinegar to make it more tender and flavorful.
“He knew that if you marinated in vinegar, that your meat would be tender, and you would be left with what it had been infused with,” Stevens said.
He was set to start selling his homemade gourmet vinegar on Mar. 5, 2019. Unfortunately, he passed away five days earlier on Mar. 1. Karmon decided to continue her late husband’s legacy by selling his vinegar at their local market in Lake Wales.
Their gourmet vinegar sold out real well at the Lake Wales Farmer’s Market. Karmon decided to sell it at another market in Lakeland. After seeing it sell well there, she has been continuing to sell gourmet vinegar ever since.
Each vinegar is created through an infusion process, combining the vinegar with spices, herbs, and fruit. After three months, they are bottled, labeled, and sold at local markets such as the recent Bartow Spring Fling Hop & Shop.
Karmon loves attending events in Bartow. She regularly attends their Friday Night events and special events such as the Spring Fling. She loves how her business has a large clientele in such a small town.
“The people of Bartow are great,” she said. “They come out and support the community…We have quite the clientele in Bartow. And so when we have an opportunity to come to town in Bartow, we do come so that our clientele are able to pick up our products. So we are always happy to attend Bartow events.”
Downtown Bartow hosted nearly a hundred vendors selling their homemade and handmade wares last Saturday for Easter Weekend. From handcrafted signs to hanging mobiles, various arts and crafts were on display and sale within the downtown area.
Hosted by Main Street Bartow, Spring Fling Hop & Shop was the springtime theme for the local quarterly market. The Mistletoe Market was hosted in the winter, while the Honey Bee Fair was hosted in the autumn.
“It was another wonderful event,” said Linda Holcomb, Executive Director of Main Street Bartow. “We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. The weather was perfect, families enjoyed the day shopping with our street vendors and our Downtown retail shops, dining in our downtown restaurants, and the kids had fun visiting with the Easter Bunny.”
For many vendors, this was their first time attending a Bartow market event. Chris Penland participated in the event for the first time, marking his Bartow debut as The Bakery Guy.
Penland has been baking for 20 to 25 years. He decided to put his skills to good use by starting his own baking business. He brought springtime spirit last week with colorful cupcakes, homemade cookies, coconut cake, and banana and blueberry muffins.
He previously attended markets in Dade City and Lakeland. The Spring Fling was his first time in Bartow, and the overall event exceeded his expectations.
“I loved it,” he said. “This has been perfect. The best part about it for me is when my customers reach out and tell me that they enjoy it. That is the key. That is what makes me happy. If I can make people happy, that is all I want out of it.”
Even despite these uncertain times, the Spring Fling experienced a great turnout. Some vendors even used the current COVID-19 pandemic to sell their specialized wares.
Catherine Beaumont, along with her mother, Lorraine Andrews, has been crafting handmade masks based on various popular franchises, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pokémon, and Disney. Their masks have been selling well since last March.
She and her mother have attended events in Bartow several times. They recently attended SyFy Bartow in February. They love the hometown feel, especially with the small shops and cafes.
“We have been doing very well since then, very successful,” she said. “We just enjoy making [these masks], me and my mother. We enjoy making it together. It is a team effort. We do it a lot, all day long.”