A new night and a new schedule greeted visitors to the Riverbank Farmers Market on Friday, June 2 at the Community Center Park.
Since its origins in 2003, the market has been held on Wednesdays each year. The Chamber of Commerce, current sponsors of the event, elected to move to Friday evenings this year, and kicked off the 2017 season this past week.
In recent years, the Riverbank version of the market has suffered from conflicts with one each week in Oakdale, where they decided also to take on Wednesday nights. Local farmers and vendors found themselves stretched thin on the same day schedule, with participation dwindling in Riverbank, affecting what was offered, and, eventually, attendance, according to Chamber of Commerce officials.
The inaugural Friday night event featured the regular offerings, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, that one would expect, along with live music and several youth-friendly activities.
Patrons wishing to shop can let their children loose in the park, either in the playground nearby, in the bounce house, at the city Parks and Recreation Department booth, or for swimming at the community pool next door.
This summer, classic automobile enthusiasts can peruse the vehicles entered in the car show contest that runs through the two months of the market. A people’s choice award will be presented at the final market night, July 28.
All of the market nights will feature live music. For the first of the season market, the Geezer Band took the stage to entertain, with the trio featuring guitar, keyboard and drums. Next week, Brad Brown will be on stage. He performed at the market several times last year.
Friday’s opening day got off to somewhat of a slow start, with Delfa’s Garden from nearby Escalon on hand representing local farmers, bringing fresh produce. A single vendor participated as well, a local candle maker, High on a Mountain, which features candles made from soy.
Market officials speculated that the recent conclusion of the school year and the change of market nights might have impacted attendance and participation.
The Riverbank Farmers Market has had an interesting record of popularity over the years.
Begun in 2003, the market was first held near city hall, and sponsored by the city. Then-City Clerk Linda Abid-Cummings organized it from scratch. The market was held on Santa Fe Street, near the intersection of Third, where city hall is located.
Musical groups performed on the lawn in front of the Historical Society Museum then, with listeners under canopies at tables in the street. Since then, it moved down to the Community Center Park, especially while the downtown core of Riverbank was being redeveloped.
After that was completed, the market moved back to the then-new Plaza del Rio Park, across Third Street from City Hall North. And after that, for a time, it was moved to the parking lot between Cool Hand Luke’s and the Galaxy Theatres along Patterson Road.
When the Chamber took over several years ago, officials moved the market back to the Community Center Park.
Each time the location of the market moved, attendance has dropped before it got re-established in the new site.
Market officials are hopeful things will improve as the summer continues.
Regular features of the current market see a return of free musical entertainment, the free bounce house and free movie nights for most Fridays.
On June 9, in addition to the car show and youth activities, the free movie will be Disney’s 2016 animated film Moana.
One difference in the Friday night free movie schedule this summer will be on June 23 and July 21. There will be no movies at Farmers Market those nights, since the Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting free movies, on Saturdays.
An additional feature of the market on Friday, June 16, will be the distribution of Senior Nutrition Coupons by the Stanislaus County Area Agency on Aging. It will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Teen Center, next door to the Community Center building, on Santa Fe Street, across from Cardozo Middle School.