It’s really, really free: Market at Fleischmann Park offers goods and services at no cost

This market is free ... like really, really free with no cash, checks or credit cards.

Naples’ first-ever Really Really Free Market, or RRFM as fans call the event, will be held from noon-4 p.m., Saturday at Fleischmann Park in Naples.

“It’s very interesting to see what happens when money isn’t involved,” said organizer Melissa Plotkin, 25. “Some people feel awkward when things are offered free; it’s like stepping out of the box. But money raises things to a new level, because not everyone has the same ability to pay.”

The market is like a throw-back to the communal concept of the 1960s, creating a market place in which no formal quid pro quo exists. It’s an idea that is gaining popularity in the U.S. and abroad, with 60 sites ranging from Fairbanks, AK to Destin, FL and Los Angeles to Buffalo, NY as well as markets in Australia, India, England and China.

Goods and services range from used clothing and household items to homegrown plants and produce; juggling and yoga lessons to haircuts and back massages. Participants are also encouraged to share their musical and artistic talents by performing, sketching, painting or reading poetry.

“Everywhere, people are into gathering,” Plotkin says. “It makes you realize how strong you can be when you offer up your skills and that we have everything we need if we work together.”

Plotkin attended her first Really, Really Free Market in San Francisco and was blown away with the concept.

“People give what they want to give, whether it’s sharing some seeds, giving away a household item, or doing haircuts or teaching yoga,” she explains, referring to the market as a gift economy. “I’ve seen people bring food and have a picnic and people juggling or singing; what happens depends on who shows up. It’s fun to see how these grow organically; the karma just comes back to you.”

Plotkin believes Naples is ripe for this type of event and hopes the market will attract the curious as well as the believers.

“It brings together people who aren’t really expecting anything in particular. The beauty is in the relationships that are formed,” says Plotkin. “People live in isolation – they go to work, then go home, rather than connecting. We’re so fragmented in our everyday life that we don’t realize what abundance and strength we have when we come together as a community.”

Plotkin explained the concept of upcycling as opposed to recycling. Upcycling involves closing the loop to make sure every item stays in use until it can’t be used anymore, before it is tossed into the waste stream to be recycled into something else.

Participants are expected to clean up after themselves and each other, making sure any items not given away go home with them, but Plotkin makes no bones about planning in advance to accommodate human nature.

“Making sure the park is left clean is one of the biggest responsibilities a market organizer has,” says Plotkin. “I’m making signs to remind people to pick everything up and I’ve got a small group of volunteers who will take whatever’s left behind to donate to appropriate local charities

But she emphasized that just smiling and talking among participants is the bigger reward.

“There’s always a really beautiful energy exchange and you can feel the good attention when the vibes connect,” Plotkin says. “It’s a great way to mingle; your presence there is a gift, just in general. Everyone is welcome at this free event, where all are encouraged to give, receive and create on their own terms.”

For more information, e-mail naplesreallyreallyfree@gmail.com or visit reallyreallyfree.org.

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