Waukesha Farmers Market returns with some changes

Scott Ash/sash@jcpgroup.com
Vendors offer a variety of home grown produce at the Waukesha Farmer's Market on Saturday, August 11, 2012.
Published on: 4/30/2013

The Farmers Market returns for its 15th year this weekend to downtown Waukesha. And the market, which takes place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays until Oct. 26, has undergone some changes.

The leadership has changed from the now-disbanded Business Improvement District to leaders within the Waukesha Downtown Business Association (a group of private business owners).

These individuals are hoping to increase the growing crowds with new interactive stages to add to the close to 150 vendors who will set up each week along the south side of the Fox River at the Riverfront Plaza, the former site of the Transit Center, located between West Broadway Street and North Barstow Street along the Fox River.

Last year there were 100 vendors at the market, a jump from 60 in 2010.

"We just had a great response," said Norm Bruce, who is part of the new Farmers Market management team. "I was really surprised by the turnout."

One new area is two music stages where local musicians will play each week, one of which will feature acts from the Waukesha Civic Theatre. Bruce said any interested musicians can contact him through the Farmers Market website at waukeshafarmersmarket.com.

Creating a website, Bruce said, was important in the branding of the market to highlight its vendors.

Bruce said connecting other downtown events such as the Friday Night Live concert series with the Farmers Market will be key in both events' success.

"We're trying to bring the family atmosphere from Friday night to the market Saturday," Bruce said. "We're encouraging people to stay downtown and we'll advertise the market at Friday Night Live and advertise Friday Night Live at the market.

"It's a circle of events to bring people back and to connect the events downtown."

The other new events at the Farmers Market are an Educational Stage and a Family Stage.

The Educational Stage will include tips from various handymen, contractors and other professionals. The Family Stage will feature projects and other activities for kids, located at the end of the market.

Additionally, the market will include cooking demonstrations by various downtown restaurants. The restaurants' chefs will cook up dishes using ingredients found at the market.

Bruce said this took place last year, but the WDBA is looking to make it a regular feature.

But like always, the market's staples return.

They include everything from in-season fresh vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, annuals and perennials, dried flowers, baked goods, oils, herbs, jams, salad dressings, cheeses, locally raised meats including lamb, beef and pork, and locally-made arts and craft items.

This year's edition comes after the former organization that ran it - the BID - saw the resignation of its executive director and board members last fall.

The WDBA, as a result, ran the market for the last two months of the season.

And with the BID officially disbanding earlier this year, the WDBA took the reigns once again.

Bruce said the change didn't cause vendors to leave Waukesha as there was a 90 percent return rate.

"We're trying to build a strong loyalty with customers, vendors and downtown in general," Bruce said.

Busy day in Waukesha

The RiverWalk for Breast Cancer also takes place at 8 a.m. Saturday. Participants, who can register the day of, take part in a two-mile walk in and around Frame Park.

On-site registration is from 8 to 9:55 a.m. There is also a raffle and drawing during this time. Leading up to the 10 a.m. walk there will be a Beat Cancer Boot Camp Warm-Up and a speech from the walk's ambassador Jill Congemi of Waukesha.

The RiverWalk for Breast Cancer began in 1997 as a way to raise money for the Regional Cancer Center's Center for Breast Care at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. The walk has raised more than $3 million for cancer research, education, state-of-the-art technology and patient supportive services.

In conjunction with that event Montecito Ristorante, 257 W. Broadway, will hold a "Pretty in Pink" benefit from 4 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday.

There will be a raffle, silent auction and a 50/50 raffle and bands throughout the night. All proceeds go toward breast cancer awareness.

The second art crawl of the year also takes place Saturday in downtown Waukesha.

The art crawl is from 4 to 10 p.m. at the many downtown art galleries.