It’s back to Broadway for Aurora Farmers Market
By Marissa Amoni For The Beacon-News February 27, 2013 4:10PM
Varistine Isom, left, and Judy Durham pick out sweet corn at the Aurora Farmers Market on North River Street in August 2012. The market, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, will be moving back to its former site at the Aurora Transportation
Updated: April 1, 2013 7:14AM
AURORA — Fresh produce, live music, and baked goods will be back in the parking lot at the Aurora Transportation Center as Aurora’s Farmers Market kicks off the season at its old home this year.
The city-run market spent last year on River Street near Wilder Park, where the former Aurora Police Station stood just north of New York Street.
“We outgrew it immediately,” said Dee Basile, special events coordinator and market manager for the city of Aurora.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Farmers Market in Aurora, making it the oldest market in the state.
Basile said that the city intended to move the market permanently to Wilder Park, or as it was also called, Wilder Promenade, but the logistics weren’t satisfactory for the growing market. It will now be permanently at the Aurora Transportation Center.
On River Street, the market wasn’t as visible as it had been on Broadway. After the first few markets, it was too large to continue on the street, so the market was moved to the adjacent Lot W parking lot. Once in the parking lot, the vendors were able to get in and out more easily and patrons preferred the layout, said Dale Hazlewood, special events coordinator for the city of Aurora.
Hazlewood and Basile said that it was more of a challenge for street traffic to see the market when it was down the hill from Lake Street and the consensus from feedback was that the market was more visible and accessible when it was held at the Aurora Transportation Center.
They noted that the parking lot layout, which allows for multiple rows of vendors, was preferred over the linear one-row layout on River Street. Having more space also allows for the market to feature musicians or activities in the center of the market.
The city also wants to build on the synergy of RiverEdge Park, along the Fox River across the street from the Transportation Center, Basile said.
The number of vendors is also up.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were close to 60 this year,” Hazlewood said.
He added that improvements at the Transportation Center will help to accommodate the larger market.
Markets a growth crop
Farmers markets in general are gaining in popularity, Hazlewood said.
“The number of farmers markets in Illinois has exploded. There are over 350 in the state, making Illinois third in the nation (with the most farmers markets). It just shows people are eating fresh and local,” he said.
Of course, part of the farmers market is education, and “local” doesn’t always mean “in your backyard.” Hazlewood reminds that we are in northern Illinois — the land of corn and soybeans.
“There’s not a huge peach orchard down the street,” he said.
Aurora’s Farmers Market represents the entire region, including Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and other nearby states. However, one of the oldest vendors is Wiltse’s Farm in Maple Park. The farm is currently tending to seedlings in their greenhouses that will be this year’s crop of asparagus and more.
There is a special sneak preview of the Aurora’s Farmers Market planned for the Aurora Transportation Center, 233 N. Broadway, on May 18. The preview will include the Fox Valley Garden Club’s Gardener’s Sale, typically held at Blackberry Farm. The regular market season starts on June 1.
Changes at other markets
In addition to the downtown market moving back to the Aurora Transportation Center, the East Side market is moving to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church at 701 E. Eola Road this year.
The visibility at the market will increase at the new location, Hazlewood said.
“Spring Lake Park was just a little too out of the way,” he said.
The city hopes to increase traffic at the market by having it at the church, just down the street from the Eola Community Center.
The West Side market will continue at West Plaza, however, market hours for both the East and West markets will be from 1 to 5 p.m. The change reflects a demand for the West Side market to open earlier.
The West Side market operates on Wednesdays and runs from July 10 to Sept. 11. The East Side market operates on Thursdays and runs from July 11 to Aug. 29.
The downtown market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, through Oct. 19.
For more information, visit www.aurora-il.org or Friends of Aurora’s Farmers Market on Facebook.