Shaking off two summers of pandemic cuts, the Park Ridge Farmers Market reopens on Saturday, May 28, with some 35 food vendors plus live music and children’s and other activities restored to half a dozen tents.
Michigan and Wisconsin vendors will increase Park Ridge and other Chicago-area businesses on Prairie Avenue between Main and Garden streets. The Farmer’s Market will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., weather-repellent, every Saturday through Halloween weekend.
The market has held up, operating for more than three decades. Support from the city has also increased its longevity.
The nine-person Farmers’ Market Board meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. Members are President Brenda Holcomb along with David Arena, Linda DeRoeck, Richard Freeman, Justin Dumcum, Karen Grunschel, Alexander Jasinowski, Genie Taddeo and Stephanie Goodrich.
“The majority of sellers are coming back,” Holcomb said. “We’ve had good relationships and happy buyers.”
The reputation of the market has apparently spread across state lines. New supplier Jake’s Country Meats of Cassopolis, Michigan, heard the good word from the remaining suppliers.
“We wanted to add another market in the northern suburbs,” said Lou Ann Robinson, co-owner of Jake’s. “We thought it might suit us. We know some of the vegetable people.
Jake’s will sell pork, grass-fed beef and chicken raised without antibiotics. Wild-caught freshwater fish from the Great Lakes are also found here.
Robinson’s son-in-law, Nick Seelye, will open his stand this year in Park Ridge while Robinson is working on another stand at Wilmette French Market. Jake’s also has a presence in two other Chicago markets.
Five other Michigan produce and flower vendors will be on hand. Wisconsin will be represented by three vendors.
Park Ridge vendors are Off the Wall Café, Murph’s Woodworks, and Nicky C’s Red Hots.
Off The Wall owner Ryan Tracy, who has been a vendor for five years, knows he will face fierce competition from nearby vendors offering delicious, freshly baked pastries. So he limited his sales to hot coffee, cold brew, and soft drinks like lemonade and ginger ale.
“We have a lot of people in front of our brand who haven’t seen it before,” Tracy said. “The last two years, it was still a great experience and it was already outdoors. We have already figured out the logistics of operating outside. We met a lot of new faces that we had never seen before.
Holcomb said the apparent ebb has allowed the market board to bring back a variety of tents and activities.
A musical tent is set up with two numbers each, one from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by a second set from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The numbers are already reserved for the season.
“Music is always a good thing and it always brightens the mood,” Robinson said.
A Business of the Week tent is also back, highlighting the operations of a local business.
Restored after a pandemic absence, a children’s activity tent offers kid-friendly activities and special guests. A related activity is the Sprout Kids Club, where children visiting the market tent for the fifth time can win a prize.
A community tent is also returning. Non-profit organizations can promote themselves here.
The New Hope Community Pantry Tent is probably the most socially responsible exhibit. The food pantry provides a five to seven day food supply to eligible families in need once a month. Other services offer clothing and household items from the pantry shop, blood pressure testing, SNAP enrollment assistance, and school supplies.
“We partner with New Hope if we have leftover product,” Holcomb said. “They can refrigerate food so it doesn’t go to waste.”
The market tent allows consumers to use their SNAP/LINK UP debit card for tokens to use with vendors. Double value coupons are also available for purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The vendor booth application can be obtained at https://www.parkridge.us/resident_service/farmers_market/vendors.php.