The Farmers' Market in Little Rock's downtown River Market District will celebrate its 35th year anniversary this year with a week-long celebration beginning April 21 - the official opening of the 2009 season.
Kicking off the anniversary festivities will be a visit from Bravo Television's Top Chef: The Tour. Featuring some of its viewers' favorite "cheftestants" and their signature dishes, the Little Rock stop will bring two of the show's alumni to perform four cooking demonstrations using ingredients purchased from the Farmers' Market, complete with gourmet tips and tastings. Students from the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School will be sous chefs for the Top Chef alumni. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to the public. Exclusive Top Chef gear and the opportunity to win fun prizes by testing show knowledge will be available as well.
On Saturday, April 25, the celebration will continue with a special presentation honoring longtime farmers and market participants, as well as community leaders who have contributed to the growth, promotion and enhancement of The Market. Additionally, in partnership with Pulaski Technical College Foundation and the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, the Little Rock Diamond Chef demonstration will take place with four local chefs showcasing their culinary skills as well as teaching the audience how to prepare a few of their favorite recipes. The chefs will also provide copies of the recipes to the attendees.
Patronized by locals and tourists alike, the Farmers' Market has served as a seasonal institution and local destination favorite for over three decades. Filled with farmers selling farm-fresh produce straight to consumers from the backs of their trucks from early morning until mid-afternoon every April through October, patrons can find bargains on Arkansas crops as well as a bountiful array of handmade arts and crafts.
River Market attractions, museums and shops are also getting in on the fanfare, offering special discounts, promotions and events of their own. A complete listing of anniversary highlights can be found on the Farmers' Market special 35th anniversary website at www.FarmersMarket35.com.
A BRIEF HISTORY
One of the most prominent features of the River Market District, The Farmers' Market has been a unique shopping experience since it began in downtown Little Rock back in 1974.
An open-air marketplace offering farm-fresh produce straight to customers from the backs of farmers' trucks and bargains on many of Arkansas' best crops, the inception for the farm-like market began in the early 1970s beginning with an idea from one man - Jimmy Moses, Principal of Moses Tucker Real Estate and, at the time, Director of Little Rock Unlimited Progress (UP), an organization whose sole purpose was to revitalize the downtown area and increase its visibility.
Based on an idea he received on a trip to Syracuse, N.Y. for downtown conventions, Moses saw an outdoor market that he thought would work well for downtown Little Rock.
Beginning with a core group of families selling their goods right off the backs of their pickup trucks, the UP established the Farmers' Market in 1974, holding the first public Market in a parking lot on Main Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. The Market was moved in the mid-1980s to the Metrocentre Public Parking Deck, which had been specifically designed to house the marketplace. The deck was equipped with a roof to protect against inclement weather, ceiling fans to provide air circulation, running water and restrooms.
Over time, the Market grew in both farmer participation and popularity, soon becoming a thriving place in the downtown area. One reason for the Market's appeal was the diversity of the crowd it attracted. While restaurant chefs would come to purchase fresh produce, schools would bring students on field trips to the Market.
In the early 1990s, discussion of a new Farmers' Market location began. The idea for a new, improved Market included resembling an actual "market"--not an adjunct to a parking deck. The planning, fundraising and construction was set in motion and the Farmers' Market as it exists today opened to the public on July 5, 1996 in the heart of the new River Market District.
Some families travel as far as 90 miles (145 km) away to participate. Long-time vendors include: Glenda Fletcher and Linda Heffner (1974), Jane Reynolds and Elaine Scudder (1974), Betty Harvey (1976), David Hall (1977) and Joe Willis (1979). Participants who have participated for a decade include: Ryan Barkdull, A Hang Vang, John Vang, Cynthia Eyiuche, Karla Schaeffer, Jody Hardin and Lynn Holoch.
The Farmers' Market is open twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Market will run from April 21 - October 31, 2009.
For more information visit www.FarmersMarket35.com or call the River Market at (501) 375-2552