Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2017

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast

Valley’s farmers markets growing

Two boys rush over from the nearby baseball field, where their older siblings are playing in record heat, to exchange worn dollar bills for an icy treat.

Vendor treats weren't the only draw, as sweaty first graders flocked recently to the parking lot at Children's Memorial Park in the city's northwest.

Organic fruits and vegetables, hand-painted crafts and Louisiana barbecue also beckon their parents for four hours each week to a parking lot at Gowan Road and Rainbow Boulevard.

"I think this is fantastic," said Helen Davidson, toting a plastic bag filled with oranges toward her home a few blocks away. "This is one of the rare times I've felt like this is a real neighborhood with real community services."

Polly Marchek happened upon the fledgling farmers market by accident after her daughter mentioned it, and now mans a small booth of her artistic wares called A Desert Painter.

"This started as a hobby and I figured this might be a good way to get started selling my artwork," Marchek said.

Nearby, Jeremy Miello dispenses lemon, cherry and watermelon ices from Mickie's Water Ice van for $1 a cup.

"People are beginning to notice we're here," Miello said. "It's starting to pick up."

But the trickle of passersby may not be enough to keep the market at Children's Memorial open. The trial run thus far hasn't proven as successful as the city's other market at Bruce Trent Park. And vendors say they think the city will scrap the Children's Memorial location for now.

The city of Las Vegas began co-sponsoring its first farmers market at Bruce Trent Park last November.

"Right from the start, it was obvious that it was going to be a great success," said Darren Copeland, cultural center coordinator for the city's Leisure Services ArtReach division. "It definitely surprised everybody how the attendance grew over the matter of a few months."

City employee Denise Wilson strolled through the parking lot at Children's Memorial on a recent Tuesday slurping on a water ice and asking vendors if they needed anything. The city supplies staff support at each farmers market and assists with trash when the vendors pack up, Copeland said.

"We've had a few concerns initially about parking from the baseball parents," Wilson said, referring to the youth leagues that use the park nightly and now have trouble parking on Tuesdays. "But overall it's been very well received, and we hope the baseball community also embraces it."

Ginger and Steve Johnson joined forces with other local farmers and vendors to begin the Las Vegas Farmers Market after a similar market held weekly in downtown Henderson drew crowds of up to 5,000.

The Johnsons' first Las Vegas farmer's market, in Summerlin, was an instant hit and led to additional markets at Bruce Trent, Children's Memorial and now at the Village Square shopping center.

The city has waived its typical park fees so the Johnsons can hold the markets on city land. In exchange, the city gets a small percentage of sales. Booths cost $30 and are paid to the Johnsons.

Copeland said putting markets in city parks is likely to spread to other neighborhoods, including downtown, thanks to City Council support of the program.

"I wanted this program to become a tradition in the northwest," City Councilman Michael Mack said. "Bringing neighbors and family together is what a healthy community program is all about."

Mayor Oscar Goodman has repeatedly said a farmers market, perhaps set up in the fledgling arts district near Charleston Boulevard, will help draw people back downtown.

"I'm open to any idea that creates pedestrian-friendly environments and brings people downtown," Goodman said.