Heard of the LA Showcase? If not, check it out on Saturday mornings in … guess where.

Classic autos were a part of the antique car show at the LA Showcase today in downtown Lake Alfred. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

LAKE ALFRED – What a difference a right hand turn makes.
“I like it a lot better,” said Val Cooper. “There’s good things about the way it’s set up now. There’s parking out front, and people can come by and stop and get out and see what’s here.”
The ability to offer both street parking and a convenient path for foot traffic has been a crucial element to Cooper’s business, Critters’ Treasures, which is located at 177 E. Haines Boulevard – just a few steps away from the LA Showcase, the outdoor marketplace that aims to bring a growing number of people to downtown Lake Alfred on the last Saturday of every month.
By late morning on Saturday, there were already a good number of people walking by the stores leading up to E. Seminole Avenue, from Haines Boulevard down to Pierce Street. This section of Seminole was blocked off to cars on Saturday, unless someone counts the classic autos that were a part of the antique car show at the LA Showcase, along with a blood drive and a used book sale by the Friends of the Lake Alfred Library.
In fact, with crafts, food, antiques and jewelry all being sold at the outdoor market, there appeared to be a little something for everyone – or, at least, that’s what Cooper was hoping for.
“We have vendors of all types here – fresh vegetables, hand-made gifts, artisans that come with their wares,” Cooper said. “We hope to have more artists come here in the future.”
She’s encouraged by the turnout so far at these LA Showcase events, which are held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“All the Saturdays have been terrific,” Cooper said.
It took the merchants quite a while to get that location, said Heather Duncan, president of the Lake Alfred Merchants Association, who noted that it took quite a bit of lobbying to convince the Lake Alfred City Commission to make Seminole Avenue available for the marketplace, which the merchants felt was an ideal way to showcase what this quaint Polk County city has to offer.
Although Haines Boulevard was their initial choice for LA Showcase, “Some people felt it was unsafe to use, so we found an alternative road, Seminole Avenue,” Duncan said. “They felt that was a safer location, and the commission voted that we could have this road for six months, and use it on the last Saturday of every month.”
So far, she said, so good.
“We wanted as many merchants as possible to be here,” Duncan said. “We want to bring people to Lake Alfred, and make it a destination.”
The town already has a reputation for its antique shops, Duncan said, and now with the LA Showcase, they hope to build on that and draw more people to their restaurants and other stores and amenities.
“There are several antique stores here, and that’s probably our biggest draw,” she said. “But Lake Alfred is small, and a lot of people, when they call to ask about the LA Showcase, they don’t even know where Lake Alfred is.”
Duncan and the other merchants are, not surprisingly, happy to enlighten them. They’re also pleased to have a street they can block off for the outdoor market, even if Haines Boulevard was their first choice.

Downtown Lake Alfred is already known for its quaint antique shops. (Photo by Michael freeman).

“Considering that we had that interruption,” she said, “We still have people who show up. As long as people are coming and buying, this will work out well.”
It has so far for Penny Hallie, who markets glass garden totems made from recycled glass at the outdoor marketplace.
“I saw one online and had an artist friend who said, ‘We need to make these things,’ “ Hallie said. “You put them in your garden and they get the reflection off the sun.”
Having an outdoor marketplace where she can sell the totems, Hallie said, has been a boon for her business.
“My sales have been great,” she said.
She also thinks the switch to Seminole Boulevard has worked out well, because motorists can still drive along Haines Boulevard, spot the marketplace as they pass by, and find a convenience nearby parking spot so they can come back and check everything out.
“I personally like it on this street because we get more walk up traffic,” Hallie said. “It gets better all the time.”
Denise Johnson, president of the Friends of the Lake Alfred Library, was at the LA Showcase selling used books, as a fund-raiser for the newly built Lake Alfred Public Library. She said this has become a great event for the community.
“I’ve lived in Lake Alfred all my life, and this is what I love about being in a small town, having events like this,” she said.

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