A long-standing tradition in Riverbank has seen its demise. The Riverbank Farmers Market will not be held this year.
The announcement was made this week by board members of the Chamber of Commerce, most recent sponsors of the summer time event.
Over the years, a combination of factors has contributed to the decline of the event, according to chamber members.
The most recent organizer, a chamber board member, has moved to Washington since last year, and no one stepped up to fill her shoes. Other elements working against the event over the years has been its move from location to location around town.
The summertime market has been held in several sites in the downtown area, and even spent a year or two staged at the parking lot in front of the Galaxy Theatres on Patterson Road.
The idea started in 2003 with then-City Administrator Linda Abid-Cummings, who almost single-handedly got it off the ground, with support from the city. The event began the first week of July that year, on Wednesdays, and continued through August.
That first year, it was held behind City Hall (now City Hall North), on the grass and on Santa Fe Street in front of the museum. Local farmers and other vendors participated with musicians, from the first mariachi band to local rock bands and other performers over the years entertaining audiences weekly. Other musicians included soloists, blues and folk singers and country bands. Even a ukulele ensemble and a barbershop group have performed in years past.
By 2007, it had moved to the Community Center Park, further down Santa Fe Street, across from Cardozo Middle School, to take advantage of more grassy area and cooler shade from the trees there. It also had to move to make way for the redevelopment and construction in downtown that year.
By 2011, the Farmers Market had been moved to Santa Fe at Third streets, in front of the new Plaza del Rio Park that was part of the Downtown Redevelopment Project.
By 2012, the city was much less involved with it and then-council member Dotty Nygard took over organization of the event and it moved to the parking lot between Cool Hand Luke’s and the Galaxy Theatres, on Patterson Road.
In 2014, the market returned to the Community Center Park, with its grass and shade trees. And it had expanded, beginning in early May and continuing to the middle of September. When Nygard moved away, the Chamber of Commerce took over operation of the event.
Throughout the market’s run, added special events had helped expand the festival atmosphere.
One summer, Riverbank Idol, a talent show, was staged during a market. And the winner, a young singer from Oakdale, went on to perform at the State Fair in Sacramento, also auditioning for the American Idol TV show that fall.
In addition to the local farmers’ wares, local vendors sold art items, and occasional car shows were added to the itinerary. Even a Pet Show competition was held one summer.
Perhaps the most popular addition will continue, but will be a stand-alone event this year.
The Bicycle Rodeo, Health and Safety Faire will be featured on Wednesday, July 11, still at the Community Center Park, co-sponsored by the Central Valley Community Resources and Riverbank Police Services.
When it originated it was held at the corner of Sixth and Atchison streets, near where the Teen Center now stands. It has since moved to the corner of Seventh and Atchison, taking advantage of the shade trees near the swimming pool and playground on that end of the park.
The event will again feature prizes given away, including bicycles, helmets and other goodies, as well as the ever popular bicycle rodeo course. In addition to police officers, fire, ambulance and other public safety officials are expected to be in attendance with a variety of emergency services equipment on display and information to offer attendees.
In recent years, the traditional Wednesday evening market here faced stiff competition, when a weekly Farmer’s Market was begun in neighboring Oakdale, on the same days. The competition took a toll with the local farmers, who were suffering the effects of diminished crops because of the ongoing drought, and became torn between the two markets, with many opting to participate in Oakdale.
Despite the loss of the market, the city Parks and Recreation Department has organized two other Wednesday ‘Family Fun Night’ events at the Community Center Park, on July 18 and 25 this year. Organizers promise music, food, booths, and a water slide, among other activities. And the best part is, as always, admission is free.