Hamilton Gallant sipped a beer and considered his solo situation at the Chattanooga Market.
"When I come here with a girl, I end up spending more," Mr. Gallant said as he grinned and looked around. "I never come here searching for anything, but I'm always impressed with what I see."
Vendors and visitors felt the same as they celebrated the market's ninth grand opening Sunday. Shoppers darted from live music and art displays to an especially popular dollar-a-minute massage station. Cinnamon, funnel cakes and beer mingled for an aroma that seemed appropriate for a retail carnival.
The Chattanooga Market is a nonprofit organization that calls itself "the region's largest producer-only market." Its season will run each week until Dec. 5.
About 300 vendors come from several states each year to sell everything from homemade goat cheese to "real money coin jewelry."
As people poured into the First Tennessee Pavilion, two women navigated tent skeletons and scouted handmade pottery.
"I like watching the people," said Sandra Kaelin, a student at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. "And things here are not really that expensive."
Hearing that last comment, her friend jumped in.
"Well ... sometimes it is," said Lauren Good, a student at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. "But it's definitely worth it. I'm glad my mom dragged me here this morning."
One couple personified the look of many pairs browsing booths.
"I'm thrilled. There's just so many things to see, just like every year," said Terry Denniston, an employee at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
When her fiance, Terry Walker, was asked why he enjoyed the festival, he laughed and said, "Because she likes it," pointing to Ms. Denniston.