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Farmer's Market Plans Cause Argument
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A suggestion the Riverbank Farmer's Market be shifted from Wednesday evenings to Saturday mornings and the locale changed from the Community Center Park to the Plaza del Rio ran into all kinds of opposition at the April 25 Riverbank City Council meeting.

The only thing agreed was the market could start a month earlier this year - on June 4 if there's still time to arrange that. Following involved discussion, Interim City Manager Pam Carder agreed to come back with a more cogent plan including insurance and street closure proposals by the next meeting.

The Chamber of Commerce and Community Garden Committee have agreed to take over supervision of the market from the city this year with some help from city staff and recommended the changes in time and place, Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick and Administrative Services Director Linda Abid-Cummings explained.

But that means the market would lose the insurance previously provided through the city and initial coverage costs of $1,000 or so would fall on the Chamber and Committee. In addition, the place change would require the city to provide labor and pay for barricading streets at a cost of about $6,000.

Other problems surfaced, too. Time is running short, Abid-Cummings noted. The city must reach a decision soon for the sake of the vendors, some of whom already are advertising a switch to the plaza.

Among other opinions expressed, Wednesday evenings are a good time for the Riverbank Market because they avoid clashing with those of neighboring cities. Oakdale holds a market on Thursday. Modesto has two markets going on Saturdays and will present formidable competition if Riverbank switches to that day.

"At one time years ago, we were downtown, and nobody came." said one veteran vendor from Empire. "And the old folks do buy from us."

He was refuting a comment that suggested many Riverbank senior citizens place chairs in the shade of the park's trees and come to hear the music of the bands, not to patronize the produce stands.

Some vendors are concerned the lack of shade in the new plaza where the trees have not yet had time to grow will dry up their fruit and vegetables and deter buyers, he added.

Resident Scott McRitchie, however, commented the city is always seeking to draw visitors downtown and a market set in the plaza would promote the downtown and could draw more vendors and more buyers.