Not only was Saturday Cinco de Mayo and the running of the Kentucky Derby, but it was also the first Saturday of the 43rd year of the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market.
Held every week from the first Saturday of May until the last Saturday of October, thousands show up between the hours of 7am and noon (8am start later in the year) to find breakfast, cure a hangover, enjoy live music, walk their dog, push their stroller, and enjoy the large and diverse offering of produce, meat, flowers, pastries, prepared food, decorations, clothing, greeting cards, art, coffee, and much, much, much more.
I try to make it as often as possible and I almost always run into people I know. For many, it's a weekly tradition. It's a fun place to see (the people watching is great!) and be seen.
Before I hopped into my vehicle to head to Clarence for a 10:30 am meet up, I decided to find a cup of coffee and some breakfast at the market. No sales are allowed until 7am - though many are eyeing the goods and wares while in line. For the first time ever, I was there to witness the opening bell (literally a bell is rung) of the opening day.
The furthest west business at the market is Rinehart's Family Farm. They are a terrific family from the Boone area and always annually have a great selection of produce and other products, including breakfast sandwiches and bowls.
I decided my breakfast was going to be the #2 - a Lots-of-Yum Sandwich. Eggs, bacon, and cheese on toasted focaccia? Sounds amazing - and it was.
By 10am, especially on nice days, you can expect the streets to be packed with thousands of patrons. If crowds aren't your thing, it can be a bit much. However, at 7am, it's much more manageable.
The farmers' market is sponsored every year by UnityPoint, one of the state's largest health systems.
The Meals from the Market group was busy setting up their tent as I walked by. Vendors can donate unsold produce that will be given to those in need. Additionally, other patrons can make donations of food and money as well.
There were a couple of live musicians kicking off their full morning of performing.
There's always a wide array of unique items for sale. From metal work and flowers to products made from emu...and just about everything in between.
Whether you come downtown for the farmers market for at another time, I think it's great to check out the side of this building which is full murals created by local artists.
There has been an explosion of development in the core of Des Moines in recent years and while the progress is exciting, it can also create some temporary headaches. For example, one of the heavily used parking garages, kitty corner from the Polk County Courthouse, was recently razed to make room for a new development which will include a 40 story tower, hotel, art museum, parking garage, cinema, and other commercial space.
It will be a spectacular development when Mandelbaum Properties gets it completed in a few years. Until then, other local parking garages have opened in attempt to accommodate the market traffic.
In addition, the Court Avenue bridge is closed for replacement though I do not believe that will affect the flow of things too much.
If you live in Central Iowa and have never been to the farmers' market (I know many friends where that's the case), make 2018 the year you finally get there.
If you live elsewhere in the state but have plans to be in the Des Moines area at some point on a Saturday this spring, summer, or fall, definitely make plans to spend an hour or more exploraing. Despite the sometimes crazy crowds, there's a reason it's popular...there's something for just about everyone.
As always, I welcome your suggestion of places to visit and profile in Polk County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a suggestion or would wish to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.