By: Laurel Thrailkill

The Hattiesburg Downtown Farmers Market was bustling Thursday afternoon as the sounds of an acoustic guitar filled the air and people strolled among the vendors.

For the first time this season, the Farmers Market returned to Town Square Park Thursday, greeted by warm, sunny weather. About two dozen vendors selling everything from fresh produce to homemade crafts were scattered throughout the park.

Here are some of the items that are not to be missed.

Already Dunn sauce

Ida Billingslea of Jackson was offering free samples of a sauce of her own creation — Already Dunn, a tangy, flavorful red sauce from bottles with a bright purple label.

“The only thing it’s not good on — and some beg to differ like myself — is ice cream,” Billingslea said with a laugh.

Billingslea said the sauce, which can be used as a barbeque sauce, hot sauce, steak sauce or marinade has been a staple in her home for 30 years, but she has been selling it since 2015.

“I’m a seamstress by nature, and when people would come in and pick up a garment, I would let them use some of the sauce, and then they wanted to know where they could buy it, so this is how it went from my table to the market,” Billingslea said.

The sauce is $20 for a 34 oz. bottle.

Hand-made wooden toys

David “Doc” Trim, of Petal is a retired teacher who makes wooden toys including cars, trucks, trains, boats, airplanes and rubber band guns.

The toys for both younger and older children start at $5 and he has been selling them at the Farmers Market for 14 years.

“All of my toys are meant to be played with,” Trim said.

Though he has been a woodworker all his life, the 71-year-old Trim said the inspiration to make toys came when his grandson was in Cub Scouts and he helped make wooden cars for the Pinewood Derby.

“Being restricted as I am, it’s tough to get out, and it’s a real pleasure for me to get out and visit with people,” Trim said. “Because I’m either inside or in my shop or out walking the streets of Petal.”

Flowers and herbs

David Fields, of Slidell, Louisiana, also known as “Dave the Plant Man,” has been attending the Farmers Market for 11 years. He said the best part of the Market is the comradery with other vendors.

His booth had annual and perennial flowers dotted with bright purple and white blossoms available, but it was the scent of fragrant potted herbs such as chives that hung in the air.

Fields, 59, grows all his plants himself. His inventory rotates throughout the season, and he said he mainly focuses on different varieties of flowers. Prices vary depending on the plant.

Locally-sourced eggs

Arsene Benoit, of Ellisville said raising hens and selling eggs is a hobby. The eggs he sells come from his 29 Barred Rock hens and Rhode Island Whites hens.

Thursday was his first day at the Farmers Market.

“I have a large family, both sides, and I’ve been giving them away,” the 69-year-old Benoit said. “Everybody eats them. So this is the first time I’ve tried marketing.”

One dozen eggs sells for $3, and he says they last two weeks on the counter or three months in the refrigerator. Benoit plans to expand his booth to include homemade jellies and fruits from his orchard in the future.

Fresh produce

Effie Bryant of Baxterville was one of several vendors selling fresh produce at the Farmers Market. Her 40-acre farm produces okra, green beans, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries and cucumbers, among other produce. On opening day, she had strawberries and tomatoes.

She said squash and zucchini had just been planted and green beans are sprouting and will be available by April. She has been selling her produce at the Farmers Market and Hattiesburg Corner Market for about six years.

A few stalls down, Lee Campbell, 17, of Richland was helping run the Fulmer’s Farmstead. People crowded the booth which offered produce, homemade bread, candy and spices.

“There’s a lot of work put into it, and it’s all worth buying it,” Campbell said.

The produce comes from a family-owned, horse-powered produce farm in Perry County where the fieldwork is done using Percheron draft horses.

Sausage dogs

Curtis Keys, 56, of Franklin County makes the 100-mile trip to Hattiesburg to sell smoked pork sausage in flavors of regular, hot and jalapeño cheese. The sausages are made from scratch using a recipe he developed..

Keys’ sells sausage dogs, and also had sausage available in patties or links that can be cooked at home. Links are $11 and patties are $6.

A vendor for two years, Keys said the best part of the Farmers Market is the people.

“All of these people that sells, I know them from since I’ve been coming,” Keys said. “It’s nice to meet the people, see the people and socialize.”

Keys said the first day of the season has been wonderful, and he was not hurting for business as people lined up to buy sizzling sausages.

If you go

The Farmers Market is open each Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Town Square Park, 100 Main St., Hattiesburg.