Poteau’s Mountain Gateway Community Alliance is a group of dedicated people who are focused on improving Poteau and the surrounding areas, including Poteau, Wister, and Heavener.
A number of ventures run under the MGCA banner, including the Poteau Farmer’s Market, the Poteau Artist Cooperative, and the Poteau Area Improvement Project.
Poteau Farmer’s Market
Poteau’s Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair provides a variety of produce and craft items for visitors to the area.
The Poteau Farmer’s Market began life in April of 2014. The first day of the market looked bleak. Two vendors showed up in the pouring rain. Despite the deluge and limited amount of produce, people still came out to support Poteau’s newest market.
Eric Standridge created the core concept in 2012 after discussions with former mayor Don Barnes. Mayor Barnes wanted to see a community gathering place set in a fun atmosphere. The concept was to provide a free place for people to sell extra produce, for artists to showcase their art, and for people to come together as part of a community. In 2013, this concept was extended with the help of the OSU Extension office. The focus has always been on community participation and healthy living and lifestyles.
By 2014, things were ready to go! The first market started with two people in the “asphalt park” downtown. By the end of the year, it had grown to an amazing 6 vendors.
In 2017, the market averaged 25 vendors, with an attendance of 200 to 500 per day. Because of space constraints and fees on park usage, vendors decided to find a new home. The goal was to find a location where the market is easily visible with plenty of space for both vendors and visitors.
After receiving permission from the Bowling Alley and the Shopping Center, it was decided that the area in front of Strikealot Lanes would be ideal. The name was then changed from “Old Town Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair” to “Poteau’s Farmer’s Market”.
Today, the Poteau Farmer’s Market is the largest in Southeast Oklahoma and is the only certified Oklahoma Grown market in the region. Because the market is Oklahoma Grown, you will only find produce items that are locally grown and are in season. Outside produce is allowed and clearly marked as such. Several meat vendors can be found at the market during various times of the year. This includes everything from Angus beef to poultry and eggs.
There is also a big variety of art to be found in the market. As one of the cornerstones of the market, the market strives to promote art from throughout the region. Many weekends feature music as well. These are all local artists who want to promote the music scene in Poteau. With the new location, the Poteau Market has a lot of room to grow!
MGCA Artist Cooperative
As with the Poteau Farmer’s Market, the concept for the Artist Cooperative found life during discussions with former mayor Don Barnes. The Artist Cooperative picked up steam around 2013 when Eric Standridge reformed the Poteau Area Arts and Humanities Council. A new board of directors was chosen made up of area artists and planned projects began taking shape. However, the long-term viability of the council was largely dependant on securing a facility.
In 2018, the MGCA Artist Cooperative was formed and a new facility obtained.
The concept is pretty basic.
The main “hall” is being set up to encompass everything from live music to art displays to lectures and classes. During the day, we are gearing the facility to provide things such as arts and craft classes, kids and family activities, games, and art exhibits. Evening events will include things such as music jams and more adult-oriented events. For the events that we host, after expenses, the money raised will go back into civic and community projects throughout the tri-city area. (For example, with our lecture series, a portion of the money raised would be donated to either the museum or the genealogical society. Another example, the art challenge series will be used to help raise funds for more public art installations in the region, for art supplies to be donated to local schools, and so on.) Because it is a cooperative, the concept is to make the hall and the maker-space available to members and other non-profits to use as they need.
With events, we are working on having everything there that one may need. This includes everything from a full audio and video system to a house drum kit. We still have a few things to purchase, such as a lectern and wireless microphones, but by the time we are open, we should have everything.
Two secondary halls will include members “maker space” and a communal office/meeting space. The remaining rooms will be rented out to artists and crafters, to community-driven small organizations that need an office, and so on.
The Artist Cooperative is set up as a subsidiary for the MGCA. This portion of the MGCA is essentially a continuation of the defunct Poteau Area Arts and Humanities Council. Through the MGCA, we have been building partnerships with places such as the Center for Social Innovation and the Service Corps of Retired Executives in order to also offer in-house small business resources. As part of the Healthy Lifestyles initiative, we have space set up inside for an off-season Farmer’s Market, and it may be used in times if inclement weather for the market. On a larger scale, While the main focus of the facility is on art and entertainment, many of the projects and programs through the MGCA will be housed here as well.
Poteau Area Improvement Project
The Poteau Area Improvement Project focuses on small community and civic projects throughout the tri-city region.