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First Farmers Market Fills Downtown Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - As thousands of people make their way from craft tent, to flower tent, to food tent, it’s pretty obvious: this is a good time of year for downtown Cedar Rapids.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces; we have 200-plus vendors here, entertainment, all sorts of things happening,” said Jill Wilkins, event planner with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

If you judge a vendor’s popularity by the length of the line outside its tent, then Ultimate Chocolates ranks up with the best of them.

“The apples are all triple-dipped Granny Smith apples,” said David Baird, who brought his stock of confections all the way from Davenport.

“This is all the fudge we have left today, so once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Baird, giving a friendly warning some nearby customers. But for Baird, running out of product is a good sign.

“This is about a fifth of what we started with,” Baird said, pointing out at his stock which had already been dented severely.

Wilkins said it’s crowds like this that benefit local shops and restaurants.

“A lot of our downtown businesses say market days are their biggest days,” Wilkins explained. “We’ve really seen a lot of them take advantage and open their doors who wouldn’t normally be open, just because they’re getting thousands of people in front of their door that they might not get on a normal basis.”

It’s also big business for out-of-town produce vendors like Pheasant Run Farm out of Van Horne, even if this year got off to a slow start, according to co-owner Ann Franzenburg.

“May was extremely cloudy, and that slowed everything down,” Franzenburg told us, pointing to her bouquets of flowers.

But this is the place for area growers, crafters, and cooks to get back up to speed on making money. Even if sales of the product they bring to the market never really slowed down in the first place. That’s especially true for Big Jim’s BLTs.

“Everybody loves bacon. that’s all there is to it,” said owner Julie Woods, serving up wraps and sandwiches. “Everybody loves bacon, and we put a couple fresh spins on the sandwiches.”

When asked what she liked about the farmers market, she simply said, “We love the people. We love the customers. We love the energy that’s down here.”

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