It’s hard to imagine anything as perennially sunny as a day at the farmers market — with fresh produce, flowers, kettle corn, homemade soap and the like offered up by smiling vendors — turning countenances cloudy for both customers and businesses.
Until parking fees and related headaches become part of the bargain; which appears to have been at least part of the reason for the recent decision among officials with the Port of Everett and City of Everett to move the long-running Everett Farmers Market from its location at the port’s Boxcar Park to the city’s downtown earlier this month.
An Everett fixture for 25 years — starting first at an unpaved lot near what is now Lowe’s Home Improvement, east of Broadway — the market has spent most of its summers on Port of Everett property. For many years vendors’ booths occupied a parking lot near Lombardi’s restaurant on W. Marine View Drive until port construction, including work to build a utilities and pedestrian overpass from Grand Avenue Park, moved the market north to Boxcar Park in 2016.
But the summer Sunday market’s growing popularity may no longer have been a good fit for Boxcar and its waterfront setting. Texts and emails requested by The Herald through a public records request showed growing tensions over the port’s decision to impose a $2 parking fee for the market — a fee charged for other events at the park but waived for the market until this summer — and customer gripes of long waits to pay to park and market staff having to direct traffic rather than run a weekly event that was attracting 3,000 to 5,000 people each Sunday from June through early October.
The decision to collect the parking fee wasn’t without cause; the port was already paying a $12,000 a month fee to Diamond Parking to manage parking, and the farmers market was shelling out $800 a week to direct traffic.
“Everything had come to a head,” Catherine Soper, spokesperson for the port, told The Herald’s Lizz Giordano. “It was just another rough parking day.”
The venue switch, then, appears to alleviate a hassle for the port and the market, while presenting the city’s downtown with the opportunity to add a few thousand visitors on Sundays.
Starting Aug. 4, the Everett Farmers Market, with more than 130 vendor booths, seemed to settle in quickly along Wetmore Avenue and adjacent parking lots, between Wall Street and Hewitt Avenue. Parking is free and ample downtown, and the new location seems more accessible in the minds of market customers.
Whether the farmers market will put down roots at its new location will be up to city officials, but a couple more months of Sundays should provide more information about how the location is working for vendors, customers and the city.
Both port and city governments deserve credit for managing a location swap that — especially coming at mid-season — was made relatively quickly and with little disruption to an event that the region’s farmers and craftspersons count on to support their businesses and one that makes Everett more enjoyable for residents and visitors.
Now, please, pass that bag of kettle corn.
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