EVERETT — Busy sidewalks were a telltale sign something was happening downtown Sunday.
A steady throng of people strode and strolled from parking spots to a veritable block party along Wetmore Avenue for the Everett Farmers Market. It was the first time the seasonal outdoor market had taken up that road between Wall Street and Hewitt Avenue after several years at the Port of Everett’s Boxcar Park along the waterfront.
“We weren’t planning on moving in the middle of the season,” market co-owner and manager Karen Erickson said.
Paid parking and the subsequent long car lines that formed frustrated some customers and vendors and at least one Everett city councilwoman. All of the city-owned public parking is free on weekends, including Everett’s largest garage with 493 spots a few blocks away on Hewitt and Hoyt avenues. Spots are available in every direction around the market downtown.
Parking was far from the minds of visitors, who were happy to soak in the sunshine, walk through the aroma of wood-fired pizza and peruse the 130 or so booths. Vendors sold blueberries and bonsai, vegan ice cream and cannabis skin products, and lots of farm-fresh produce and fragrant flowers.
The latter is a fixture for Emily Magley’s market shopping. She and finacé Jeff Johnson popped in for some peppers and a bouquet, and enjoyed a craft root beer and a dairy-free, vegan scoop of honey lavender ice cream.
“With the farmers market down there (at Boxcar Park), you had to purposefully go,” said Magley, who lives in north Everett.
The former waterfront location wasn’t a draw for Johnson. He goes to the market for bread, flowers and produce, and the new site was more convenient in case he forgot something.
Accessibility was a noted improvement for a few people. The market’s previous gravel lot was more difficult for any wheeled devices to navigate compared to the paved road and sidewalks of downtown Everett.
There was a bit more space for the booths and in the main walkway along Wetmore Avenue, two market employees said. People walked in the roadway by the booths about six across, navigating the slow perusers, steady strollers and ambling eaters. The sidewalks behind the booths also were open.
“It feels less crowded, in a good way,” Magley said.
The market averages between 3,000 and 5,000 people, co-owner Erickson said, with a visitor staying about 45 minutes. Right around noon, the crowd was thick, which she said was typical for a lunch rush after the opening at 11 a.m.
“Always the fear is people won’t show up,” she said.
Longtime vendor Darlene Ulsh of Snohomish said she was apprehensive about the move’s logistics. She worried about where her Darlene’s Baked Goods booth would be placed and how setup and takedown would work. Those concerns were allayed when she arrived early in the morning.
“I’m really impressed with the staff,” she said. “I didn’t know where I was gonna be… and these guys had it all ready.”
Ulsh was one of the initial vendors for the Everett Farmers Market, now in its 26th year. She said there always has been anxiety about changing locations.
“Each move we worried it wouldn’t work out… then tons of people showed up,” she said.
Al and Emily Leopold, owners of Colibri Sweets, tended to a long line of people looking for a cool dessert in the noon sunshine. The Everett couple was pleased with the turnout on the first day of the market’s move.
“We’ve already had, it feels like anyway, more foot traffic,” Emily Leopold said.
For Al Leopold, it was practically a wish fulfilled.
“I was sitting in Narrative (Coffee) a month ago and said if (the market) ever moves, this block would be perfect,” he said.
The remaining weeks of the market will be used to gauge the location’s viability, Erickson said. A couple of perks were obvious to her already: parking access and especially the 24 disability parking spots behind US Bank and transit service. The number and placement of trash cans was one thing she was monitoring, and when it rains during the market she will see how the stormwater flows.
“If everything works out, this will be our location,” she said.