Before the Lindsay Farmers Market opened, downtown had only a few shops and a desolate park that residents did not want to visit. There was no place in this town of 10,000 where people could get together for community events. That all changed when the market debuted in April 2004. Now, says market manager Virginia Loya, “It’s like a big party every Friday night.”

Both vendors and customers at the market are predominantly Latino, and a big draw has been the Latin American specialties that growers prepare from their own crops. Fresh local food, paired with live music, has turned downtown into an inviting place where families can kick off the weekend together. Other aspects of the market, such as music and art projects presented by Lindsay’s public schools, create a carnival atmosphere.

The market entices some 5000-6000 residents to come downtown every Friday. At the height of the season, people travel up to four hours just to visit the market for an evening. The 200 vendors–half of whom sell farmed produce–are the main attraction, but market-goers also frequent downtown’s retail establishments. Because downtown is now perceived as a shopping area, a few market vendors have even opened permanent shops and can rely on business all week. Making downtown a fun, safe place for city residents to socialize and shop is exactly what Loya, an ex-flea market vendor, and Scott Townsend, the city manager of Lindsay, hoped for when the market opened.

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