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City cultivates farmers market, concert series

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 13, 2016

 Bob Bruno, of Sterling Heights, makes popcorn at the farmers market.

Bob Bruno, of Sterling Heights, makes popcorn at the farmers market.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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The time will soon be ripe for Sterling Heights’ second annual Dodge Park Farmers Market to set up shop in the city.

According to city officials, the market will open June 2 this year and will run 3-8 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 29, not including the Thursday of the Sterlingfest Art & Music Fair, July 28.

In the past, officials have explained the concept of the farmers market as a place to buy products and produce, and as a community gathering destination. Veggies, fruits, other foods and products will be available for purchase.

Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation Director Kyle Langlois said the services and attractions of the market, now in its second year, are still being formed.

“Our farmers market is going to evolve over the next couple of years,” he said. “Making space for those craft wine vendors, it adds a new dimension to the market that is important, bringing in a potentially different crowd. And we’re always trying to have more people visit. It just adds a neat variety.”

This year, the market is expecting to have some different kinds of vendors, including the type with a specialty in vintage items.

“It’s looking like we will have a designated area for wine vendors, so currently as long as everything goes through, there will be a wine vendor,” Recreation Supervisor Troy Nowotny said.

According to statistics given by the city earlier this year, last year’s inaugural farmers market season brought a total of around 40,000 visitors, vastly exceeding initial expectations. An average of 27 vendors reportedly sold produce or other goods during the weekly event.

The farmers market’s success last year has even caused some officials to propose the idea of someday building a permanent pavilion for the market.

Langlois said the future concept of a permanent market shelter will be a huge step, but in the meantime, the city is tweaking the program in other ways. For instance, this year’s farmers market season will end a bit sooner, hosting its final day at the end of September instead of running through October.

“We identify that October was a month that did not exceed our expectations,” Langlois said. “(Visitors) came through the month of September, so we shortened up the season this year. It should be a little more in line with what the demand tends to be. We think that by tightening that up, we should sustain larger crowds.”

Nowotny said the city finds its market vendors through open invitations and by spreading the word at other farmers markets that don’t directly compete with Sterling Heights’ event.

The market is cooperating with a couple of programs to help certain demographics with their purchases. For instance, while last year’s market accepted electronic benefit transfer cards, card users may also benefit from a Double Up Food Bucks program that aims to encourage the eating of Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, officials said.

Langlois said the market will also work with Senior Project FRESH, which is a government program that issues coupons to senior citizens for use at farmers markets.

“It puts some funds in the hands of some of our seniors and gives them more means to purchase fresh products to continue living a healthy lifestyle into their later years as well,” he said.

City officials say the farmers market will overlap with the city’s 41st annual Music in the Park concert series, which will take place at the Dodge Park Amphitheater, 40620 Utica Road, at 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

The weekly market will also host special events in September, such as a Sept. 1 health-themed day, a Sept. 8 pie-baking contest, a Sept. 22 pet parade and a Sept. 29 event in which kids can see city vehicles up close.

The concert series will last longer this summer, packing its schedule with musicians and talent on Thursdays from June until the end of August. Scheduled acts this year include The Dan Rafferty Band June 2, The Phoenix Theory June 9, The Dale Vaughn Band June 16, Crush: The Best of Bon Jovi June 23, Under Pressure June 30, Magic Bus July 7, Air Margaritaville July 14, Eddy & The Breakers July 21, Steve King and the Dittilies Aug. 4, Mega 80’s Aug. 11, Cadillac West Aug. 18, and Denise Davis and the Motor City Sensations Aug. 25.

Depending on the week, Music in the Park will offer children’s entertainment such as face painting, balloon art, a bounce house, airbrush tattoos and more. June 23 will feature an after-concert screening of the film “Minions,” July 7 will feature a Cool Car Rally, and Aug. 18 will feature a Wild West Party alongside a cheeseburger cook-off.

Langlois noted that the pairing of the concerts and the farmers market has resulted in “synergy.”

“That will continue to enhance the farmers market’s atmosphere,” he said.

More information on the Dodge Park Farmers Market can be found at www.sterling-heights.net/DPFM or by calling (586) 446-2489.

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