CEDAR RAPIDS — Saturday’s opening day for the Downtown Farmers Market is on track to be the biggest in the event’s five year history.
The market will be 7:30 a.m. to noon, along Third and Fourth avenues and Second and Third streets SE.
Jill Wilkins, events director for the Cedar Rapids Downtown District, said 200 vendors will sell fresh produce, baked goods and more, making it one of the largest in Iowa.
That number puts the Cedar Rapids market neck-and-neck with the downtown Des Moines market, which also boasts just over 200 vendors this season, its 35th year.
The Cedar Rapids downtown market began as an experiment in 2006 in three blocks of Second Street SE to draw customers and inject more vitality into the downtown.
At that first market, more than 40 vendors sold to a crowd estimated at 5,000.
Since then, the number of vendors and customers have grown, with the largest crowd estimated at more than 10,000 last year.
Wilkins said a waiting list of 200 vendors prompted the addition of 40 spots this year.
All are from Iowa, she said, and more than half sell traditional market products, including fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, wine, flowers and baked goods.
Wilkins noted that vendors on the waiting list are given preference if they sell those traditional items.
This week also marks the second year and season opening for the farmers market at Greene Square Park, 400 Fourth Ave. SE in downtown Cedar Rapids.
That market will be 4-6 p.m. Thursday and feature up to a dozen vendors selling strawberries, pork, baked goods and other traditional market products, said Teresa White, the city farmers market supervisor.
“We should have a nice variety of everything, but it won’t be huge,” she said.
The Greene Square Park markets run Thursdays through Aug. 26. Eventually, White said she would like to add entertainment and vendors who grill and sell sandwiches.
Entertainment for Saturday’s downtown market includes Junk Funk, Mark Brown, Unknown Component, the Twirling Starletts, Jason Brown and a variety of street performers.
Other activities include cooking demonstrations from executive chefs of downtown restaurants and community resource booths featuring non-profit organizations in the park.
Wilkins noted that Cedar Rapids Pride Fest 2010, which celebrates gay pride, will be setting up in Greene Square Park to begin immediately after Saturday’s farmers market.
A record eight downtown markets are scheduled this season, running the first and third Saturdays of each month.
Other market dates for the season are June 19, July 3 and 17, August 7 and 21 and September 4 and 18.
Corporate sponsors for the 2010 Downtown Farmers’ Market season include River Cedar Properties (June 5 day sponsor), Alliant Energy, Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust, Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation, Principal Financial, Dale Lee Distributing, Eastern Iowa Airport, ImOn Communications, Great Clips, Kaplan University, Mercy Medical Center, Quaker Oats and TrueNorth. Confirmed Media Sponsors include KHAK, KCRG-TV9, 100.7 the Fox, 600WMT, Mediacom, Hoopla, The Gazette, the Corridor Business Journal, 1600 ESPN and Z102.9.
Find an updated list of farmers markets here: