By Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan
If you’re a fan of the crowds and excitement of the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids, chances are, you’ll love the Market After Dark.
The first-ever nighttime market in Cedar Rapids sports everything that the morning markets offer: a sea of people, fresh veggies, prepared food, music, dogs and strollers, with the addition of a party atmosphere, complete with festival lighting, adult beverages and even couches.
Jeanne White of Jeanne’s Soaps, a longtime vendor at the Saturday morning Downtown Farmers Markets, said she saw her regular customers, with some new additions at Market After Dark.
“I’m seeing a lot more younger people, which is good,” said White, who put in a long day that started Saturday morning at the Des Moines Farmers Market, before selling her soaps and other products in Cedar Rapids from 7:30 p.m. to midnight.
Dennis Rehberg of Rehberg’s Pork, echoed White’s sentiments.
“It’s a completely different crowd,” he said, adding that sales of his pork products looked good at the Market After Dark.
The market also offered an opportunity for vendors on the waiting list for the morning markets.
Karen Sedlacek, who creates hair ribbons and other accessories as part of Cherry’s Capuche, said she was grateful to be a part of the nighttime market.
“We were really excited when we learned we got in,” she said.
Prepared food vendors also appeared to be among the winners at the nighttime market.
“People come here to eat,” said Patrick Rashed of the Caribbean Kitchen, adding that he had no idea what to expect at the first nighttime market, and sold out of some of his Jamaican food before the night ended. “I would do this all the time.”
Downtown bars, restaurants and other businesses that stayed open also saw an influx of customers during the event.
Especially at the outset, customers walked shoulder-to-shoulder through Second and Third Avenue SE and along Third Street. Adults were allowed to carry beer sold at beverage stations throughout the venue, but not beyond the fenced-in streets.
“It’s a zoo,” said Ron Henderson of Cedar Rapids, one of the thousands of customers who checked out the market.
His wife, Lois Henderson, noted that fewer fresh produce vendors were at the nighttime market, compared to the morning markets, but both said they enjoyed the music and seeing many people they knew at the event.
The Market After Dark was added to the regular market schedule to mark the 10th anniversary of the Downtown Farmers Market, and was patterned after similar events across the country.
As of 10 p.m., a counter at one of the five entrances had recorded 6,300 people.
Pam Hinman, communications manager for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, said estimates on the number of visitors to the inaugural event would be available later this week.
Looking for a slower pace? Find more than 50 farmers markets in Eastern Iowa on the Homegrown list and see images from the first Market After Dark, below: