Each year, as the temperatures climb upward, it becomes an annual right of passage — and this year is no exception.
Organizers have plans in motion to hold more than a half-dozen farmers market in locales across McLean, Tazewell and Woodford counties. Some of the markets are small, quaint venues with a dozen or more vendors on any given week; others are larger-scale affairs with weekly entertainment on the itinerary.
One of the area’s’ largest markets is affiliated with the tourist organization Downtown Bloomington Association.
The aptly named Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market and Artists Alley is actually a year-round extravaganza, though the event picks up steam in the summer months, as more local produce is abundantly available and outdoor accommodations are possible.
Catherine Dunlap, events organizer, said Downtown Bloomington’s market holds a unique distinction as a producer-only venue. As its name suggests, this designation means vendors can only sell products they personally grew or made by hand.
Contrary to what one might think, Dunlap said not all markets have a producer-only enforcement policy.
“Because we do, we have 50 vendors each week who are knowledgeable about the meats, eggs, cheeses and produce they are selling,” Dunlap said. “We have a very loyal customer base, and they can ask our vendors questions.”
Throughout the season, Downtown Bloomington’s market plans a series of special events that augment the vendors’ booths. The events range from entertainment, including last year’s mini theatrical performance, “The Magical Mind of Billy Shakespeare,” and informative talks.
In the small community of Downs, longtime resident Dave Bach has a large garden and a bounty of produce he is more than happy to share with people. Building on this principle, he helped form the Downs Village Market.
Bach, who is one of five committee members who plan logistics at the Downs market, said 17 to 18 vendors typically have a booth at the event, which stretches across four months throughout the summer and early fall.
“It’s grown every year since it’s started,” said Bach, who typically sells a range of produce throughout the season, including radishes, onions, okra and beats. At the tail end of the season, he sells ornamental pumpkins.
Live entertainment has been a mainstay at the Downs Village Market, Bach said, and planning that and other logistics is a nearly year-round effort.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” he said.
Even in the Heartland’s farm-rich area, holding a farmers market is competitive, as several organizers quickly point out.
When asked why his market is held on a Wednesday night, Bach quickly points out it does not conflict with any other market in the region.
“There’s also an advantage to having it in the evening,” he said. “Many of the vendors sell produce that was picked on the same day. If you go to a market on a Saturday morning, they probably picked it the day before. I usually pull my stuff an hour before the market starts.”
Farmers markets have been so competitive in recent years that at least three have ceased operating.
Normal had one, the Trailside Farmers Market, and it came to an end a few years ago. So, too, did markets in the Tazewell County communities of Morton and Washington.
Susan Pyles, who had a role in planning Morton’s farmers market, said she and other organizers “lost all of our suppliers” as vendors put up stakes at other nearby venues.
AT A GLANCE
Farmers markets across Peoria, McLean, Tazewell and Woodford counties:
Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market and Artists Alley — located at McLean County Museum of History Square, 200 N. Main St., Bloomington; 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays, May 7 to Oct. 29
Third Sunday Market (garden, crafts and collectibles vendors) — located at the Interstate Center, 2301 W. Market St., Bloomington; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, May 15, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18 and Oct. 16
Downs Village Market — located at 103 W. Franklin St., Downs; 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, June 1 to Sept. 28
Peoria Riverfront Market — 200 block of Water Street, across from the Peoria Riverfront Museum, Peoria; 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays June through September. For more information, visit www. peoriariverfront.com.
Farmer’s Market at the Metro Centre — 4700 N. University St., Peoria; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday through Oct. 30. For more information, visit http://shopmetrocentre.com.
Junction City Farmers Market — 5901 N Prospect Road, Peoria; 3:30 to 7 p.m., Wednesdays June through September. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/junctioncity.farmersmarket.
East Peoria Farmers Market — located at the pedestrian promenade within the Levee District, 400 W. Washington St., East Peoria; 3 to 6:30 p.m. Fridays, June 3 to Sept. 30, For more information, visit www.facebook.com/EPFarmersMarket.
Heritage Farmers Market — located at 20235 Illinois Route 9, Pekin; noon to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays through early fall. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/HeritageFarmersMarket.
Pekin Main Street Farmers and Artists Market — located at Courthouse Square, 442 Court St., Pekin; 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, June 16 to Sept. 22 and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, June 18 to Aug. 27. For more information, visit www.pekinmainstreet.com/market.html.
Metamora Farmers Market — located at 113 E. Partridge St., Metamora; 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, June 4 to Sept. 24. For more information, www.facebook.com/Metamora-Farmers-Market-NFP.
— Warm weather means farmers market season across Central Illinois —