The Waxahachie Downtown Farmers Market smelled of sweet grilled fruit and onions and savory vegetables Saturday.

The annual Grill Fest at the farmers market put on by the Ellis County Master Gardeners served up free plates of fresh grilled produce to vendors and patrons. The fresh produce is donated by local growers at the farmers market.

“All of the vendors donated generously this year, there were crates full waiting for us this morning,” Master Gardener Arlene Hamilton said. “All of them are really generous, but Lyndon Nichols (L&J Farms) always provides so much.”

Bruce Webb of Webb Gallery in downtown Waxahachie said he’s a regular at the farmers market and looked forward to this year’s Grill Fest.

“I am super excited about today,” Webb said. “The grilled cantaloupe surprised me. It’s not something you would think of grilling, but it really makes it sweet and delicious.”

Hamilton said this year’s bushels of fresh produce included more fruit.

“We have more fresh fruit like the strawberries and kiwis,” Hamilton said. “We also added the grilled apples with the grilled peaches.”

The grilled okra and peanut butter stuffed jalapenos surprised some samplers as well as the grilled cantaloupe. Local residents Dwight and Renee Lowe said they come to the farmers market about twice a month and made sure not to miss this year’s Grill Fest after enjoying it last year.

“My favorite is the zucchini,” Renee said. “It really brings out the flavor and has a good taste. Of course you can’t go wrong with grilled onions and potatoes.”

Regular attendees, Paula and Joe Andrle said they were ready for the Grill Fest since their neighbor and Master Gardener, Merle Shaw, left the house this morning.

“I saw here leaving this morning and I thought to myself, ‘I know where she’s going,’” Paula said smiling. “My favorite are always the peaches.”

The Andrle’s have a vested interest in the Grill Fest though, as they’re son-in-law Ellis County Ag Agent Mark Arnold is one of the main cooks every year.

“I like all vegetables and Mark is very good cook,” Joe said. “I grow cantaloupes myself, so I know these are some good ones.”

Arnold and Pat Cheshier grilled fresh okra, zucchini, onions and other vegetables on two fire pits while Scotty Rigsby manned the cast iron pot to cook up potatoes, peppers and onions.

All the Master Gardeners set up in the cooler shade behind the two-story brick building owned by the city.

Several other Master Gardeners kept pace with the patrons eating the grilled foods, preparing all of the produce for Arnold, Cheshier and Rigsby by cutting and peeling it inside a tent.

Even the vendors got a taste of their own goods as Master Gardeners made a point to take each of those who donated a plate of grilled items.