cr farmers market

PHOTO/CR METRO ECONOMIC ALLIANCE

The sheer scope of the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market likely made it an easy pick in this year’s new Best of category, Best Farmers Market.

The market, held twice a month from June to September, is not only the biggest open-air market in the Corridor, but one of the biggest in the Midwest. Now in its 11th season, it attracts an average of 14,000 customers and more than 200 vendors.

“One of the main reasons for starting an outdoor farmer’s market in downtown Cedar Rapids at the time was to encourage citizens to come downtown who normally wouldn’t be exposed to the area or the surrounding businesses,” said Jill Wilkins, events planner for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, which currently runs the market.

The fact that the market is located downtown is one of the things that makes it unique, Ms. Wilkins noted – a tall challenge some years, when considering road and building construction in the area. Another unique aspect of the market is its focus on arranging unique vendors and programming for each edition.

An active main stage highlights local musicians and acts at every market; street performers and artists are welcome at the markets, as well. There are a host of activities designed specifically for children, including scavenger hunts, a children’s theater and activities from the Iowa Children’s Museum. Hy-Vee partners with local chefs to hold cooking demonstrations using foods and products available for purchase at the market.

“The cool thing about this farmer’s market is the fact that these are local, Iowa producers, selling the things they have made, and customers are able to talk directly to the producer,” Ms. Wilkins noted. “You don’t get that outside of a market.”

This year, the market is partnering with local artists through Murals & More, a local nonprofit, to produce a community mural on the Armstrong Centre, which will be unveiled during a special ceremony at the season’s last market on Sept. 17.

This year will also feature the return of the popular Market After Dark event, which launched last year and attracted more than 34,000 people downtown. This year’s edition is scheduled for Aug. 27, and will run from 6:30-11 p.m.

“The best part about this market is the sense of community surrounding the event,” Ms. Wilkins noted. “It’s a gathering space to enjoy what Cedar Rapids and the surrounding communities have to offer, and a place where you can run into family and friends.”

– Emily Bettridge

 

TIMES ON LIST:
1 Time on Best of list