The Riverside Farmers Market will be changing venues in 2016, and the village’s Department of Parks and Recreation will also be playing a larger role in its operation.
When the first summer market opens on June 1, 2016, it’ll be located in Centennial Park and along East Avenue, in the shadow of the village’s historic water tower. The market will continue to operate on Wednesdays, through Oct. 12, from 2:30 to 7 p.m.
For the past five years the market has been held on Burling Road in front of the Riverside Public Library and in the parking lot between the library and township hall.
According to Village Manager Jessica Frances, the move was precipitated by a couple of factors. First, she said, the farmers market was always seen as a way to get people into the central business district. Moving to Centennial Park will put the market in a very visible spot in the heart of Riverside’s commercial district.
“I think [the library location] pulls people away from the central business district,” Frances said.
In addition, she said that moving to Centennial Park/East Avenue’s more contained location will help address some safety concerns. There will be crossing guards adjacent to the park in the hours when schools let out.
“There was a lot of congestion on Burling [Road],” she said. “Now we’ve eliminated this potential safety issue.”
One of the biggest reasons for the location change, however, is that it’s literally the backyard of the Parks and Recreation Department, whose offices are in the water tower pump house at 10 Pine Ave. Centennial Park also has restrooms and access to electricity.
While the Parks and Recreation Department has played a role in the farmers market for the past two years, in 2016 it will take on a more prominent role in managing the market on a weekly basis.
Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi said he’ll hire two part-time market managers who will be onsite every week, coordinating vendors, assigning spots and overseeing the set-up and break down of the market.
“Once they’re set up, [the market managers] will serve the needs of the vendors and the customers that come.”
The increased role by the recreation department takes some of the pressure off the roughly 10-person volunteer committee, which has managed the farmers market for many years.
All of the volunteers have full-time jobs, and it’s hard for them to dedicate several hours each week onsite at the market.
“It lets us focus on what we’re good at, which is recruiting the proper vendors to our market and relationships,” said Amy Jacksic, who has helped lead the volunteer committee for several years.
Jacksic described the increased role of the recreation department as the result of the farmers market’s evolution and growth. The producer-only market draws between 20 and 27 vendors each week. But its success has made it a handful for a volunteer-only group.
“I think the credit goes to the committee,” said Malchiodi about the farmers market’s success. “But as it’s grown in popularity, I think it’s a little too much for them to staff and dedicate the time to.”
Jacksic said volunteers will still be at the market each week to collect input from vendors and customers and make sure all their needs are being met. Instead of a volunteer needing to be there for four hours, it’ll be less of a time commitment.