Market on Central is the place to be this summer

“Look! I have June 22, the second Market on Central on my phone’s calendar” was a greeting I received a couple of weeks ago. What a great example of the anticipation for another season that will transform our historic downtown into a special village of vendors from across the state of Iowa. Here you will be able to come for breakfast, stay for lunch and take home dinner.

Each Market on Central, our historic downtown is transformed into a farmers market where you will find farm fresh produce, eggs, honey, freshly baked items, meat vendors selling beef, pork, chickens and more, jams and jellies, wine from a local vineyard, cheesecake, goat cheese, various jewelry, unique photography, clay pottery, gourmet imported chocolates, handmade wooden flutes and bowls, popcorn, stained glass, wooden barn quilts, bows and tutus, cotton candy, rag rugs, hostas and perennials – and the list goes on and on. Vendors this year will travel from Omaha, Iowa City, Des Moines, Forest City, Graettinger, Geneva, Grundy Center, Lake City and all points in between.

Last year we had approximately 40,000 visitors over the eight-day event. The Red Hat Ladies strolled the area, a flash mob suddenly appeared and entertained the crowd, a wedding party was seen taking pictures of the bride and groom and rain drops just had visitors pull out their umbrellas. Nothing could dampen the enthusiasm at Market on Central.

Our Market Ambassadors representing various organizations in our community will greet you at our entrance points. Once you enter our special village, you will find each Market on Central is centered on a theme that will highlight area entertainment and activities.

New this year will be special events such as Iowans Fit for Life on June 22 where we will have community fitness centers with various fitness activities. Trinity Regional Medical Center dietitians and Iowa State University Extension will also be on hand to show how to prepare recipes with the fresh produce, how to properly freeze or can produce and answer your questions. On Sept. 28, the Fort Dodge Daybreak and Noon Rotary will have the fifth annual Applefest Walk/Run 5K/10K start and finish at Market on Central. The Walk/Run will be using our new trail system and then present the awards at the Plaza during Market on Central.

Our Market on Central is much more than just a great place for your family and to pick up fresh produce and a unique homemade item. It is a place for you to connect with the farmer that produces that fresh produce and an opportunity to talk to that vendor that made those gourmet chocolates or hand turned a piece of pottery. You will see an emphasis on farmer to table education during our 2013 season and encourage that engagement with our vendors.

Historic downtown revitalization shows how community support and creativity can reinvent the area and bring it back to life. Re-introducing Central Avenue to many who have not strolled the streets for years and opening up the possibilities of new specialty shops and services is all part of the revitalization plan. Over the last year we have seen several new businesses open downtown with a wide variety of services that include home interiors, clothing and jewelry, quilts and antiques. You will want to be sure to stop by to acquaint yourselves to these new businesses while you are at Market on Central.

The Market also functions as a small business incubator providing the opportunity for a new entrepreneur to market ideas and products to our visitors. They learn how to display and promote their products, network with other vendors and listen to comments and suggestions from customers. Many of our vendors will tell you that it jump-started their business for the entire year and many hired part-time and full-time staff to handle the increase in business. Vendors such as FD Cheesecake Lady opening a bakery in downtown Fort Dodge and Garden Winery revitalizing the Callender School into a destination stop with a winery and vineyard, banquet facilities and weekly entertainment are direct examples of how Market on Central has played a part in strengthening our local economy.

Market on Central does not just happen. It has been organized and nurtured by a very dedicated committee of volunteers meeting weekly for the last three years and community support and sponsorship. The success of Market on Central shows the benefits of collaboration and cooperation of businesses, the community and community leaders. In just our third year, Market on Central has continues to grow and established itself as a family event and tourist destination. Our website at lists sponsors and supporters that have helped to make this possible.

We invite you to visit our historic downtown and enjoy Iowa-grown and produced food and products along with a variety of entertainment that will add to your pleasure and enjoyment of Market on Central. Bring the entire family and join us for an enjoyable Saturday morning. Be sure to mark your calendars for the second and fourth Saturday from June to September. The dates are June 22, July 13 and 27, Aug. 10 and 24 and Sept.14 and 28. We are looking forward to seeing you at Fort Dodge’s newest tradition – Market on Central.

Cheryl O’Hern chairs the Market on Central Committee.