There is a bumper crop of farmer markets in Fairfield County that satisfy the desire for fresh, locally grown produce.

Deborah Press thought people's appetite for antiques should also be addressed, and pursued plans for a place in Saugatuck to open her Westport Antiques & Vintage Market, which opened for the first time Sunday at Luciano Park, next to the Saugatuck train station.

"This is a very unused space here. I see kids practicing (sports) here, but most times it's empty," said Tracy Steinberg of Westport, who came to check out the mart.

"I love the location because it's got free parking and it's close to (I) 95," said Press, who called the market Fairfield County's first and only outdoor antiques and vintage market. She envisions the market eventually growing from Sunday's 30 dealers to double that number.

Hundreds of people turned out to wander through the park and shop at the booths of 30 antiques dealers, who offered a wide range of collectible merchandise including vintage linens and clothing, industrial furniture, costume and fine jewelry, books, paintings, prints, sculptures and other artwork.

Shortly after the market opened at 10 a.m. dozens of people descended on the booths.

One of the favorites was Joellen Finnie's Town Peddlers, of New Rochelle, N.Y., for her vintage clothing, purses, jewelry, shoes and 1940's bark cloth drapes.

Debra and Richard Orsitti of D Lago Gallery in Torrington offered an eclectic mix of mid-century modern furniture, American art pottery and home furnishings including a Tiffany lamp shade and a Green and Green outdoor hanging lantern.

MS Antiques of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., featured 16th Century to present-day decorative arts, sculptures and furniture.

"It's like a museum with stuff you can buy," said Leslie Beatus of Westport.

Her friend Alene LaMendola, also of Westport, said the market was a form of entertainment. "We just enjoy it. You look at some of this stuff and it's like an art gallery. It's a different art gallery for different people," LaMendola said.

Although the antiques market was well-received by the dealers and by people who shopped Sunday, it did not have an auspicious beginning when Press first took the idea to town leaders and even the organization with which it is now affiliated: Homes with Hope.

Press' proposal faced some skepticism from the Board of Selectmen when she recently proposed setting up the open-air market in Lot 1 on the north side of the Saugatuck Metro-North train station. Deputy Police Chief Foti Koskinas also questioned that location. But the market won unanimous approval from the selectmen after Press secured the use of Luciano Park.

Jeffrey N. Wieser, president and CEO of Homes with Hope, admitted he did not see an obvious connection between the antiques market and his organization when Press first approached him, but he changed his mind. "I realized it was jobs for our residents. It had a lot more to do with our mission. We can give them a bed for the night and food, but jobs are much harder to get them in this economy," Wieser said.

"It's a good collaboration. This is incredibly exciting. The fact that Deborah pulled it off this summer is impressive. I thought it would be a next year event," he said.

Press hired nine residents of Homes with Hope's Gillespie Center, a homeless shelter, and its supportive housing units.

Alan Unger, a client of the Gillespie Center, said the residents helped dealers unpack their vehicles, set up booths, break down their tents and tables at the end of the market and cleaned up the park. During the event they took breakfast and lunch orders from the dealers and brought food and drinks to them.

Unger said the homeless shelter is not free. It costs $8 per day.

"Any networking we can get done to help pay our fees is helpful," said another Gillespie Center resident, who declined to give his name.

Kara Yass of Westport, who came to shop Sunday, was impressed when she learned that Homes with Hope would benefit from the market.

The antiques mart got high marks from dealers too. "It's a nice opportunity for me to show my wares in a new area that's not too far from home," said Nancy Mayer, owner of Vintage Lady Linens of Milford.

"We're always looking for new venues," Finnie said.

The next Westport Antiques & Vintage Market will be held on Sunday, Sept. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The marts will continue on Sept. 16 and 30, and Oct. 14 and 21. Admission is $2 per person, children admitted free.