PALMER — Friday Fling is officially back in swing. A sizable crowd cycled through the first market of the season, spilling into the downtown shopping district.

“I think people are just happy to have something to do,” Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ailis Vann said. “The town’s busy, not just here… I think people needed it.”

For vendors and shoppers alike, many there were happy to be out and about with so many events and annual activities cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I’m loving that they did it,” local shopper Theo Jamison said with a laugh. “I’m loving the food.”

Jamison said that he overstuffed his belly browsing through the food trucks, his favorite part. He said it was good to see the vendors able to make up for some of their losses from major events like the Alaska State Fair being cancelled.

“I think people are itching to get out,” Jamison said. “A lot of people depend on this stuff especially with the cancellation of the fair.”

Melinda Rindlisbacher and her husband Norman have owned and operated Kettle Korn Express for the last nine years as a family. Rindlisbacher handed popcorn to customers, smiling under her facemask. She said they were having fun and the turnout was really good in spite of the spots of light rain.

“It’s refreshing to be back. It’s just good to see people out,” Rindlisbacher said. “You see the Alaskans out rain or shine. People are just ready to get out.”

Rindlisbacher said all their children have worked at the stand. She said it’s been an effective way of teaching them work skills and how to save their money. She said that she was thankful the Palmer Chamber was able to get the Friday Fling off the ground this summer, that way their family has a go-to place to set up shop and do what they do best.

“I’m glad that they did it, that they’re willing to do it

It’s been a great experience for our family

Their youngest, Norman, has spent the most time cumulatively popping kettle corn and traveling the state with his parents. Norman is entering his freshman year of high school.

He said the traveling aspect is his favorite part working the stand.

“We’re working our butts off,” Norman said with a laugh. “I like the money, don’t get me wrong.”

Rindlisbacher laughed and told her son, “you’re a good little popper.”

Vann said that overall, the first Friday Fling was a success and she’s excited for the rest of the season. She said people have been mostly positive with feedback and the crowd seems to be effectively distancing themselves.

“I feel like this is a pretty safe event,” Vann said. “People are doing a good job of policing themselves and that’s what we want.”

For more information, call 907-745-2880 or visit palmerchamber.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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