Shaking off two summers of pandemic cutbacks, the Park Ridge Farmers Market reopens Saturday, May 28, with some 35 food vendors along with live music, and restored children’s and other activities in a half-dozen tents.
Vendors from Michigan and Wisconsin will augment Park Ridge and other Chicago-area businesses on Prairie Avenue between Main and Garden streets. The farmer’s market will be open from 7 am to 1 pm in any kind of weather every Saturday through the Halloween weekend.
The market has had staying power, operating for more than three decades. Drawing support from the city has also increased its longevity.
The nine-person Farmers Market Commission meets at 6:30 pm the second Tuesday of each month. Members are chairman Brenda Holcomb along with David Arena, Linda DeRoeck, Richard Freeman, Justin Dumcum, Karen Grunschel, Alexander Jasinowski, Genie Taddeo and Stephanie Goodrich.
“The majority of vendors are returning,” said Holcomb. “We’ve had good relationships and happy shoppers.”
The market’s reputation apparently has spread across state lines. New vendor Jake’s Country Meats of Cassopolis, Mich., heard the good word from holdover vendors.
“We wanted to add another market in the northern suburbs,” said Lou Ann Robinson, co-owner of Jake’s. “We thought that might be a good fit for us. We know some of the vegetable people.”
Jake’s will sell pork, grass-fed beef and chicken that is raised with no antibiotics. Also featured is wild-caught Great Lakes freshwater fish.
Robinson’s son-in-law, Nick Seelye, will open their booth this year in Park Ridge while Robinson works another booth at the French Market in Wilmette. Jake’s is also present at two other markets in Chicago.
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’d face stiff competition from neighboring vendors offering delicious fresh-baked pastries. So he has limited his sales from him to hot coffee, cold brew and soft drinks like lemonade and ginger ale.
“We get 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 already figured the logistics of operating outdoors. We met a lot of new faces we haven’t seen before.”
Holcomb said the apparently ebbing enabled the market commission to bring back a variety of tents and activities.
A music tent is set up with two acts each, one from 8 to 10 am, followed by a second set from 10:15 am to 12:15 pm The acts are already booked for the season.
“Music is always a good thing, and it always brightens the mood,” said Robinson.
A Business of the Week tent is also returning, highlighting the operations of a local business.
Restored after a pandemic absence is a Kids Activity Tent with child-friendly activities and special guests. A related activity is the Sprout Kids Club, where children visiting for the fifth time at the Market Tent can win a prize.
A Community Tent is also coming back. Nonprofit organizations can promote themselves there.
The New Hope Community Food Pantry Tent is probably the most socially-conscious exhibit. The pantry provides a five-to-seven day supply of food to eligible families in need once per month. Other services are offering clothes and household items from the pantry’s boutique, blood pressure screenings, SNAP sign-up assistance and school supplies.
“We partner with New Hope if we have left over produce,” said Holcomb. “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 the vendors. Double value coupons are also available for fresh fruit and vegetable purchases.
Application for vendors booths can be obtained at https://www.parkridge.us/resident_service/farmers_market/vendors.php.